85 Broads Rockstar Connie Duckworth from Afghanistan
June 27 2010
By way of introduction, Connie Duckworth and I worked together at Goldman Sachs. Connie was one of the stars at GS and it was not long before the firm made her a partner. She had a splendid career run at GS.
Like many GS partners, Connie kept blazing ambitious new trails after she left. She founded ARZU, which is an innovative model of social entrepreneurship that helps Afghan women weavers and their families break the cycle of poverty by providing them steady income and access to education and healthcare by sourcing and selling the rugs they weave. While structured as a 501(c)(3) in the United States and an international NGO in Afghanistan, ARZU operates as a “for-benefit” corporation, using private sector practices to create jobs in desperately poor rural villages where little opportunity exists. Not surprisingly, ARZU means "hope" in Dari.
Over the past decade, Connie has fearlessly traveled to Afghanistan and is now embarking on what surely is her most ambitious and exciting work there ever. Connie is investing in the future of Afghan women in a way that makes every woman in 85 Broads proud. Perhaps one day we will have a chapter of our network there. I share with you Connie's latest blog -- she is a total ROCKSTAR.
OPERATION MAGIC CARPET RIDE
Connie K. Duckworth / June 21st, 2010
If my blog has been conspicuous by its absence for the last ten days, at least I have a good excuse. I’ve been in Afghanistan – at Camp Leatherneck, Northern Helmand Province to be precise – at the invitation of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. Needless to say, it’s been a once in a lifetime experience.
Back in March, shortly before the Marines deployed there as part of the surge, I was invited to meet with senior Marine officers at Camp Pendleton, just north of San Diego. Since the military’s mission has recently expanded from “Clear and Hold” to “Clear, Hold and Develop,” they were interested in hearing about the experiences we’ve had in creating economic opportunity at the grassroots level through ARZU. I was honored that, perhaps, some of the lessons we’ve learned in much more peaceful parts of the country might in some small way be helpful in one of the most challenging conflict zones in Afghanistan.
At the conclusion of my day there, Major General Richard P. Mills, Commanding General of the Southwest Command in Afghanistan, mentioned that, once they cleared the area in Helmand Province, he’d like to see private sector programs like ours come in behind them. I nodded in agreement and went home, never really expecting to receive a most extraordinary invitation. Until a few weeks ago…
By way of background, Afghanistan shares a 1500 mile-long, highly porous border with Pakistan, stretching from the rugged Hindu Kush mountain range in the northeast corner of Afghanistan across the Southern deserts until it intersects with the border of Iran. It’s a rough neighborhood. Two of the country’s largest Southern provinces – Kandahar and Helmand – are the hotbed of Taliban insurgency. The first is the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban; the second is the world’s near-sole supplier of heroin. There’s a real war raging here. Every day, fellow Americans are in harm’s way. These photos from the New York Times will give you a sense of what’s going on.
On Sunday morning, June 6th, I left home for the start of “Operation Magic Carpet Ride.” A Marine escort was to meet my commercial flight inbound for Kuwait City early Monday afternoon and put me on a military plane for Afghanistan. Thanks to thunderstorms in DC and sandstorms in Kuwait, which closed both of those airports, I narrowly made my connection on the C-17 troop transport and arrived at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province around 7 :00 a.m. on Tuesday morning.
My first observation: nobody at Camp Leatherneck sleeps. These guys and gals work 24/7 with a few hours of rest sprinkled here and there. I fell into line. Armed with a shower, a bite of breakfast, 35 pounds of body armor and a helmet, I boarded an Osprey and headed to the capital city, Lashkar Gah.
To be continued…
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