Pine Cobble energized by Afghan effort

By Linda CarmanPrint Story | Email Story
Rush Filson enthralls Pine Cobble students Monday. (Photo By Linda Carman)
WILLIAMSTOWN – Afghan children crowded around Marine Corps Major Rush Filson with their requests – not candy, not toys, not money. “They wanted notebooks and pencils, crayons, books,” Filson told a roomful of Pine Cobble School students Monday. Filson has just returned from a tour of duty as an advisor in Afghanistan, where his visit to a rural school sparked a fund-raising drive that has raised more than $45,000 and drawn in church congregations, schools, including Pine Cobble and in Adams, St. Stanislaus Kostka, as well as organizations such as the Dalton WeBeLows and a 4-H horse group in Stephentown, N.Y. “My hat’s off to you,” Filson told students at Pine Cobble, which he had attended from fourth to seventh grades, and where he helped coach lacrosse after graduating from Bates College in Maine. Pine Cobble students held bake sales and wrote letters to students at the school in Lowgar, in the eastern part of the country. The school wants to maintain a connection, Filson said. Pine Cobble youngsters were full of questions, the group a sea of waving hands. Students wanted to know about Afghan children’s favorite games – which are marbles and kite-flying, Filson told them. “They make kites out of twigs and plastic bags,” he said, noting that the ousted Taliban regime had outlawed kites. It was the resolve and courage of principal Abdul Nabi that launched a fund drive by Sally and Donald Goodrich of Bennington, Vt., whose son Peter was killed when the United Airlines plane he was on was hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center in the 9-11 attacks in 2001. The Goodriches, family friends of the Filsons, read Rush Filson’s e-mails home and were inspired to send school supplies to the school that had so impressed Filson, their son Peter’s childhood friend. That impulse — both to reach out and to channel their grief — turned into a campaign that has drawn the attention, and the contributions, of many. And it aims to not only help the individual Afghan schoolchildren, but to build bridges and, by fostering education, dispel some of the hatred that coalesced into the 9-11 attacks. Although none of the hijackers was Afghan, they had trained at camps run by the Al Qaeda terrorist organization when that country was run by the Taliban regime. An American invasion dislodged the Taliban, but the struggle for a functioning country is ongoing. Asked about Afghan attitudes toward American military, Filson responded that after 25 years of war following the Soviet invasion, Afghans are glad to have the Americans there and want only security, safety, and to get on with their lives. “The people of Afghanistan are sick and tired of war, and want to raise their families in peace and rebuild their lives, buildings and institutions,” Filson said, adding that Afghan hospitality is exceptional. “The people want us there. They’re so sick of war. They want stability and security, and we provide that.” Food, clothing, customs all interested the Pine Cobble students. The Afghan school that has benefited from local generosity — including $10,000 from an 84-year-old family friend of Sally Goodrich’s — has a staff of six women teachers, and well over 100 students, both boys and girls in the early grades, and all girls in the higher grades, Filson said. The principal, Nabi, has pursued education for girls and women at great personal risk, he said. “He and his entire family have had their lives threatened,” he said. “But he says, ‘You can kill me, but until you do, I’m going to continue to teach.’ He’s courageous. That’s why I was attracted to him.” The school that has received donated supplies from area donors is in a compound provided rent-free by an Afghan-American. As donations have snowballed, the project has, in some ways, changed form, if not focus. “We’re working to build a school,” Sally Goodrich said. The school will be located about 2 miles from the original school and will be next to a boys’ school and quite near a training camp for anti-narcotics squads so security will be greatly improved. “We’re hopeful Abdul Nabi can be a teacher there,” Goodrich said. The new school is intended to include students from both Nabi’s private school and a girls’ school now operating out of the female principal’s home. “We’re so impressed and humbled by your great gifts,” she told the students. “We anticipate an ongoing relationship.” Filson, who was moved by Nabi’s journey to Kabul to bid him goodbye, said the changes will ultimately benefit the children. The project, Goodrich said, transcends politics and religion, and is supported by a cross-section of people. “People are hungry to cross boundaries,” she said.
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Berkshire County Arc Golf Event Raises $45K

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire County Arc raised $45,000 at its 29th annual Golf Classic held this summer at Berkshire Hills Country Club. 
The funds raised from the event go directly to individuals with disabilities for activities such as art classes, medical equipment, wheelchair swings, concerts, assistive technology, and dream trips to places like Disney, Celtics games, and deep-sea fishing.
The money also goes to scholarships to area high school students planning to pursue human service careers.
The lead supporters of the event this year were Berkshire Bank, Health New England, Greylock Federal Credit Union, The Notch Insurance Group, Synagex Modern IT, and Advance Manufacturing.
BCArc serves around 1,000 individuals with disabilities through a range of programs that include residential services, employment support, day programs, and support for families at their homes.
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