San Diego-Jalalabad Sister Cities Engage Over 20,000 Students
Blog contributed by Stephen R. Brown, San Diego Sister Cities Association
Since 2002, representatives of the La Jolla Golden Triangle Rotary Club-San Diego have developed many projects in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. What began as constructing a school and creating a computer lab for Nangarhar University (NU), resulted in a ripple effect establishing many programs leading to San Diego and Jalalabad establishment of a sister city relationship in 2004.
Afghan Youth Connect (AYC) is an innovative program connecting thousands of Afghan students to the outside world. In seven years, AYC has grown to operate computer labs at 18 public high schools in Jalalabad. Additionally, a central facility at NU hosts two schools involved with AYC. These 19 sites cover all public high schools in Jalalabad (boys and girls). In addition to receiving IT and ELS training, the Afghan students connect with students in San Diego through Skype and Facebook. Since its inception, AYC has directly engaged 11,523 Afghan students (6,255 males and 5,268 females) and an additional 9,030 observers - 20,553 individuals total. Currently 6,500 Afghan students participate directly (or indirectly as observers). Through AYC, relationships have developed between high school student clubs in both cities as well as a Rotaract Club (a Rotary sponsored organization for individuals between ages 19 and 29) at the University of San Diego and a community based Rotaract club in Jalalabad. AYC won Sister Cities International’s 2015 Innovation (Youth and Education) Annual Award.
Many other programs have evolved involving both cities. San Diego State University developed a partnership with NU to build the English program and engineering program. Additionally, Afghan students have gotten opportunities to study at the University of San Diego. Afghan medical doctors have had an opportunity to travel to San Diego and medical professionals from San Diego have traveled to Jalalabad to put on workshops for medical students and faculty.
Beyond the trips taken between individuals in the two cities (numbering well over 100 trips) substantial humanitarian assistance has been provided by San Diegans to Jalalabad. Four buildings have been constructed, Internet has been provided to 16 buildings, internet labs have been set up as well as a computer science department, sharia law department, a female dormitory, and an international learning center at NU as a result of this partnership.
The relationships between citizens of both cities have resulted in strong mutual understanding and trust, notwithstanding substantial cultural differences.
Click here to download a full report detailing seven years of dynamic outcomes for AYC.