“Solutions to Afghanistan’s often seemingly intractable problems will come from educated Afghans, especially Afghan women, and cannot be imposed from outside.”
- Ted Achilles, Jr. in 2010
PROVIDENCE, RI - AUGUST 30, 2018 - The Initiative To Educate Afghan Women and our entire community of academic and philanthropic partners, staff and volunteers, alumnae and students mourn the death of Theodore “Ted” Achilles, Jr., who after "failing retirement" in 1996 lived and worked in Afghanistan between the years 2003 and 2015 directing the American Councils Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program and co-founding SOLA - School of Leadership Afghanistan among other Afghanistan-based philanthropic and commercial endeavors. Ted died on August 21, 2018 at hospice in Portland, Oregon after a two decade long battle with prostate cancer according to his August 29, 2018 obituary in The New York Times.
Under Ted’s direction between 2004 and 2008, American Councils Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program evaluated between 2,000 and 3,000 Afghan high school boys and girls from more than 20 provinces each year for 40 highly coveted one-year scholarships at US public and private schools. YES program alumnae subsequently entered highly ranked, undergraduate colleges and universities in the US through through private and public initiatives including The Initiative To Educate Afghan Women.
The YES program was discontinued in 2008, however the leadership principles it instilled in its students and graduates live on in their work. One YES program graduate and alumna of The Initiative To Educate Afghan Women's US Undergraduate program, Marzia Nawrozi (Meredith College 2013), (pictured below) has dedicated her career to raising awareness of Afghan Girl's and Women's issues, seeking justice for their cause through her work with legal advocacy centers in the US and Afghanistan, the Feminist Majority Foundation, the Afghan Women's Writing Project and Free Women Writers.
In 2008, Ted co-founded SOLA - School of Leadership Afghanistan, which was inspired and named by one of his former YES program students, Shabana Basij-Rasikh, while she was still a junior in college. SOLA (a Pashto word meaning “peace”) was founded as a program to help Afghan women receive college educations abroad and now focuses on its innovative Afghan-led, private boarding school for Afghan girls - the first of its kind in Afghanistan - which provides Afghan girls a rigorous education promoting critical thinking, a sense of purpose, and respect for self and others
Outstanding among SOLA students is Wasima Shinwari, who continued her education in biology and public health at Russell Sage College through The Initiative To Educate Afghan Women. After receiving tutoring in English at SOLA, Wasima was hired as Dormitory Supervisor and Executive Assistant to the Head of School. During that time Wasima worked as interpreter and chaperone in Ted’s work with Solace for the Children, accompanying 21 Afghan children affected by war to the United States for medical treatment.
Following the advice Ted frequently gave his colleagues and students, "Do not follow where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail," as a student at Russell Sage College, Wasima Shinwari founded the first Speech Therapy Project in Afghanistan, a partnership between Calvin College of Grand Rapids, Michigan and Indira Gandhi Hospital of Kabul, Afghanistan to train Afghan physicians in the diagnoses and treatment of speech disorders resulting in their patients’ readmission to public schools.
Among Ted’s other endeavors to improve the lives and livelihood of all Afghans was co-founding Paxton International in Kabul in 2003. The global freight forwarder which began with one truck driver now has 50 employees and dominates its market sector. In 2009, Ted assumed leadership of the Abdul Madjid Zabuli Foundation (AMZ) where his activities included support for MBA scholarships at American University of Afghanistan and on-going support for a non-profit maternity clinic in Kabul serving approximately 1,000 patients every month. In 2014 and until 2017, Ted was Managing Director of Educational Support and Development Organization of Afghanistan (ESDOA) AMZ Foundation’s non-governmental organization created to provide educational opportunities and economic enhancement to rural Afghans, especially women.
Ted graduated from Yale in 1958 and joined the US Army after Infantry Officer's School and becoming qualified as an Airborne Ranger. He graduated from Tufts University Fletcher School of International Law and Diplomacy in 1962 and spent the next decade working in international banking before starting 25-year career as an entrepreneur and businessman, successfully turning around several companies, serving two terms in the Oregon State Legislature while raising a family of five children.