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Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation

Area served: Afghanistan
Wellesley
Massachusetts
Telephone: 781-431-7894
Email Us

About-Razia-Ray-of-Hope

Razia’s Ray of Hope is a nonprofit organization that empowers Afghan girls and young women through community-based education in the district of Deh’Subz.

Our organization and our school were founded in the belief that education is key to positive, peaceful change for current and future generations — and that we must provide girls and young women the education and resources necessary to work toward brighter futures, in their own villages and beyond.


Main Focus

  • Child Rights
  • Education

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About Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation

About the Foundation

Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation is a nonprofit organization that empowers young women and girls in Afghanistan through community-based education in the district of Deh'Subz. 

Founded on the belief that education is key to positive, peaceful change for current and future generations, we provide young Afghans with the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe, nurturing environment, so that they may work toward brighter futures — in their own villages and beyond.

Our flagship project is the Zabuli Education Center, an all-girl K-12 school that provides free, exemplary education to more than 430 students. The founder of our school and foundation is Afghan native Razia Jan, a CNN Top 10 Hero and tireless humanitarian.

Our immediate goal is to add 50 students per year to our current program until the Zabuli Education Center reaches its full capacity of 650 students. The Razia's Ray of Hope Foundation will fully support the school in perpetuity by eventually setting up a sustainability endowment.

The philosophy of education and school-building employed by Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation and the Zabuli Education Center has proved remarkably effective. It is our intent to use our school as a model to expand into neighboring villages. There is a desperate need for quality, free education in Afghanistan, a need that the public school system is decades away from fulfilling.

We will continue to meet this need on an ever-increasing scale.

Our Story

A Collaboration of Change

In the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and the ensuing war, Afghan native Razia Jan sought a relevant project for the Rotary Club in her adopted hometown of Duxbury, Massachusetts.

Razia worked in Duxbury as a tailor and dry cleaner. Because of her passion and commitment, the small shop had become a hub of aid to Razia's homeland of Afghanistan.

When Razia learned of a historic former boys’ school in the Afghan district of Deh’Subz that had been nearly destroyed, she began planning to rebuild the school and resuscitate its mission to provide Afghan girls with a more promising future. Importantly, rather than foist a school onto a random town as a form of social engineering, the project would restore an institution that had been the gift of a beloved Afghan king, Amir Amanullah Khan, in the 1930s and was once a center of the community.

The school’s restoration was important and culturally appropriate on many levels. But Razia needed steadfast logistic support in Afghanistan before she could turn her plans into reality.

While Razia dreamed of the school’s restoration, Aziza Mohamad Dauod, owner of the Niazi Road and Building construction company in Kabul, was looking for a project that would aid Afghanistan’s recovery. Aziza needed the right project, and Razia needed funding.

Razia and Aziza joined forces when Zinat Karzai, wife of Afghan president Hamid Karzai, introduced the two women. The team partnered with Frieda Madjid — or Fareeda Zabuli, as she is known in Afghanistan — the wife of Abdul Madjid Zabuli, an Afghan patriot who shaped the modern Afghan state and founded the Zabuli Foundation. Together the three women decided to rebuild the coveted school and restore a symbol of hope for Deh’Subz.

With help from families in her small coastal town in Massachusetts, Razia began to raise funds to rebuild the school — and the new Zabuli Education Center took shape. Razia received a major financial boost from best-selling Afghan author Khaled Hosseini, who visited Duxbury twice to rally the community. Less than two years after conceiving the project, construction began.

Opened in March 2008, today the school is thriving in its seventh year of operation with more than 400 students at work in classrooms each day. The district of Deh’Subz has embraced the trim cement building with the bold red door as a sign that their children deserve and will, in fact, have a better future.

Razia created the Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation so that her dreams for the Deh’Subz community, and the successes that have already been accomplished, will continue even after she is gone.

This is Razia’s legacy — her ray of hope.

Zabuli Education Center

Zabuli Education Center

Changing Lives Through Education

Our private K-12 girls’ school, the Zabuli Education Center, provides more than 480 girls with free education as well as uniforms, shoes, warm coats, and meals.

Our Afghan staff of 19 teachers and administrators is supported by a small, US-based foundation team. We provide groundbreaking instruction to disadvantaged girls in a region with one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. Where many existing schools fail to meet even rudimentary standards, our school is exemplary. A Ministry of Education official said of the Zabuli Education Center: “It is perfect.” 

Named for the late Abdul Madjid Zabuli, a businessman and philanthropist who was committed to improving education in Afghanistan, the Zabuli Education Center is located 30 miles outside of Kabul in the district of Deh’Subz. This district is comprised of 46 villages, with a total of approximately 100,000 residents including a large number of nomadic families.

The Zabuli Education Center is built on the historic site of a former boys’ school. The gift of a beloved Afghan king in the 1930s, the original building was all but destroyed by 30 years of war and terrorism. The new three-story building is located in a relatively safe area within walking distance of seven villages. The school opened its doors in March 2008, and now provides free education to more than 400 Afghan girls who were previously denied educational opportunities. Students range in age from four to twenty-two. The curriculum is both academic and practical, taught by experienced, native teachers.

The Zabuli Education Center was founded by Afghan native Razia Jan. Razia’s dream of a school for girls became reality through the collaboration of several extraordinary women — as well as the vital support from generous organizations and the hard work of staff and our advisory board.

Quality in the Classroom 

The Zabuli Education Center is ahead of its time, providing an education on par with Western schools—for free.

Our success begins with the school-building philosophy. As many organizations have learned the hard way, a school will not last long without the community’s support: a 2009 study by CARE found that schools built by NGOs with community participation are much less vulnerable to attack. Our founder Razia Jan, a native Afghan, worked tirelessly to gain the community’s acceptance. Although villagers initially rejected the idea of a school for girls, today Razia is hailed by village elders — with whom she meets on a monthly basis — as the “Mother of Deh’Subz.”

The most important distinction of the Zabuli Education Center is its level of continued support from its administrative organization, Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation. Seventy-three percent of our students live below the poverty line and cannot afford to pay for education at all, let alone the exorbitant fees charged by most private schools in the region. Your sponsorship enables us to provide our students the education they need for free, as well as uniforms, shoes, warm coats, and meals. But our organization’s involvement means more than providing full financial support; it also means guaranteeing that the quality of our education meets the standards we set.

We begin by hiring dedicated, qualified teachers, a difficult task, as competent teachers are rare in Afghanistan. Our team searches for individuals that meet our requirements, and we pay them 40%-60% more than typical schools in Afghanistan. Each of our teachers has graduated high school and many are credentialed or completing teacher training. We hire locally when possible, but the majority of our teachers live in Kabul. We provide transport to and from school every day. 

Zabuli Education Center students attend class for 5.5 hours daily: 182 school days per year in the primary school and 186 in the upper grades. In addition, K-12 students are encouraged to attend class during the three-month winter break. Our largest class has only 25 students, and our educational resources include a fully equipped computer room and science lab.

Afghan girls

Women and Girls in Afghanistan

For nearly three decades, the people of Afghanistan have been subjected to a succession of brutal wars, from the Soviet occupation (1979–1989) to a period of tribal civil wars (1990–1996) and the oppressive rule of the Taliban (1996–2001). These conflicts have left Afghanistan’s infrastructure and economy devastated, making it one of the poorest countries in the world.

Prior to the Soviet occupation and Taliban takeover, Afghanistan was a relatively liberal country with a progressive outlook on women’s rights. Afghan women comprised 50% of government workers, 70% of schoolteachers, and 40% of doctors in Kabul. However, the effects of war and the Taliban regime quickly effaced the rights of women in public life and relegated them solely to the domestic domain.

Women and girls have often been the worst victims of conflict. Under the Taliban, women were forced to wear an all-encompassing burqa in public and barred from working outside the home. They were also banned from attending schools, riding bicycles, wearing brightly colored clothes, or laughing loudly. As many as 1 million women have been widowed by Afghanistan’s wars and left with few options for supporting themselves and their families.

Since the US-led invasion, however, Afghanistan has experienced some dramatic changes. A new constitution was approved in 2004 and the country’s first presidential elections were held later that year, bringing the first president, Hamid Karzai, to power. The constitution has made women and men equal citizens under the law and mandates that women make up 25% of the new parliament. Billions of dollars in foreign aid have poured into the country, both through government-sponsored assistance programs and international NGOs (non-governmental organizations).

Despite these relative improvements, the country today stands at a tipping point. For most women, little has changed since the days of the Taliban. It remains taboo for an Afghan woman to be seen in public without a burqa, although it is not required by law. Women and girls are still largely uneducated and confined to their homes, with few prospects for gainful employment. Girls are often the most marginalized and vulnerable. The literacy rate for females over the age of 15 is 12.6% compared to 43.1% for males, and only 40% of females attend primary school and 6% attend secondary school. Currently, there are 70 private universities in Afghanistan; over 200,000 students attend college — but only 18% are women, and 82% men.

Islamic fundamentalism continues to influence the Afghan government’s policies on women’s rights. Violence against women and girls in the form of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse remains prevalent. Afghan women and girls are often forced into marriages with older men, resulting in alarming suicide rates. In 2007 alone, 500 women set fire to themselves to escape forced marriages. Analysis of the situation has indicated that the nation's women are among the worst off in the world, both in comparison to Afghan men and to women in other countries around the world.

Investing in girls’ education is critical to addressing girls’ needs and concerns as well as human rights. It has been shown that girls who go to school and stay in school are more likely to find jobs as adults, get married older, have fewer children, and are able to earn more for their families and communities. Beyond protective security measures, the only way to ensure women's human rights in Afghanistan and to truly empower women in the long run is through offering primary, secondary, and higher education that will foster literacy, free-thinking, and knowledge of international human rights standards. Read more about our model of empowering women through community-based education here.

We currently teach 440 students at our flagship school, the Zabuli Education Center. Sponsoring one student is only $300 a year. The life of every student we add to our school is permanently changed for the better; these changes ripple through their family, community, and country.

Razia Jan with students

Razia Jan

Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation has been shaped by the spirit and vision of Razia Jan. Founder of the Zabuli Education Center, Razia has worked for many years to forge connections between Afghans and Americans.

Razia began by rallying her adopted New England community to send over 400 homemade blankets to rescue workers at Ground Zero after September 11, 2001. Her efforts expanded to include sending care packages to US troops in Afghanistan. Through her involvement in the military’s Operation Shoe Fly, she coordinated the delivery of over 30,000 pairs of shoes to needy Afghan children. Her handmade quilts commemorating September 11 have been exhibited at Madison Square Garden, the chapel at the Pentagon, and at fire stations in New York and Massachusetts.

Born in Afghanistan, Razia moved to the United States in 1970. The proprietor of a small tailoring business in Duxbury, Massachusetts, for 20 years, she served as president of the town’s Rotary Club. She is a member of the Interfaith Council and No Place for Hate, and a member of the board of directors at Jordan Hospital. Razia has spoken on women and children’s issues at many venues in New York, Massachusetts, Washington, DC, and Afghanistan.

Razia has received many awards for her humanitarian work, including the 2007 Woman of Excellence award from Germaine Lawrence Inc., multiple Rotary Club International Peace Awards, and certificates of appreciation from the Army Corps of Engineers and the American Legion. In 2011 Razia was honored by the Duxbury Rotary Club with their inaugural Amazing Woman of the Year Award.

In 2012, Razia was named a CNN Top 10 Hero. Razia also received the 2013 Speak for Thyself from The Alden House Historic Site and the 2013 American Muslim Women's Empowerment Council Award. In 2014 she was named Social Innovator by the Lewis Institute at Babson College. 

Today, in order to continue her humanitarian work, school administration, and fundraising efforts, as well as spending time with family, Razia travels frequently between Afghanistan and the United States.