GLOBAL DAYS OF LISTENING: Bethpage High School Students Connect with Afghan Youth

Twenty students ranging from freshmen to seniors in the 21st Century Scholars Program at Bethpage High School recently made a connection by conference call with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers in Bamiyan Province, Afghanistan.
This was not an easy task for either group, given the language barrier and lack of technology in Afghanistan. As part of the program, the two groups have been conversing for one year now with the assistance of Italian teacher and School Civic Association advisor Jacqueline Jill-Rito, and medical doctor Wee Teck Young, originally from Singapore, who acts as translator for the Afghan youth. Dr. Young, who arrived in Afghanistan ten years ago to aid refugees, is known to the Afghan volunteers as Hakim.
After all of the technological kinks were worked out and a connection was finally made, Ms. Rito said, “Hello Hakim, this is Jacqui from Bethpage High School. We are projecting a picture of the Afghan youth.” (A photo of the participating Afghan youth was projected on a SMARTBoard because an actual videoconference is not possible in Afghanistan.) Hakim responded, “We appreciate the work you are doing. We thank you for your time.”
A question and answer session with the Bethpage students and the Afghan youth followed. The first question, asked by Michelle Mason, president of Student Civic, was, “What does peace actually mean to you?” After translating back and forth between Hakim and the Afghan youth, the response was “All things good.”
A second question was posed by Julia Musetich: “If you could change one thing about where you live, what would it be?” They answered, “Change for the people of Afghanistan means bringing them together.”
“I was wondering if you guys live in a war zone?” asked Jackie Grigorian. “Yes, it is unsafe,” replied Hakim on behalf of the youth.
In spite of the problems with communication and technology, the two groups managed to get their messages across to one another, and that’s what it was all about.