Reaching out beyond 9/11

Teal: What programs are you excited to potentially fund in the future?

Retik: The organization is called Mountain to Mountain, and we haven’t made the grant yet. We’re still trying to work it all out. They contacted me because they knew that Beyond the 11th gave to widows in Afghanistan and they wanted to reach out to us to see if we could work on something together. Discussing all the different programs [they sponsor] just really hit hard in my heart.

[For the skilled birth attendant program] they take women from these rural areas and bring them together for a four-week intensive training program where they learn the basics of sanitation and nutrition to bring babies into this world in a healthy way along with keeping the mothers healthy. Oftentimes it’s a two-day donkey ride to the nearest health care facility. And by the time they get there, it’s too late. So, you know, there are no prenatal checkups. And there’s nothing until the baby’s ready to come out. And by then, oftentimes, it’s too late if there were any issues.  So, the women that trained in these programs will have most likely only up to a fifth grade education. It’s really basic stuff. But they’re doing it in such a way that even at that point it will save lives. And then these women will go back into their communities and they will receive a stipend so that they can do this work. And, ultimately they will be paid by women who use their services.

Teal:  Through your work with Beyond the 11th you’ve become an expert on women in Afghanistan. What do you wish people better understood about Afghan women? Particular Afghan widows?

Retik: What I want people to know is that these women cannot be abandoned because they’re just like us. They are the same people just living in a different country. They all want the same things for themselves and their families the way we do.  I think that people oftentimes put these countries in a different category as if, eh, those women don’t feel the same thing we feel cause they have lived this their whole lives or because they’re this or they’re that.

But, we really are all the same. And we wouldn’t want these things for our daughters or our mothers or ourselves.  And, so, what I want people to know is that we need to give them the opportunities that we have here.  Women need access to education.

The country will not move forward a 100 percent no matter how many bombs we use, how many soldiers are on the ground if the entire country’s not educated, they will continue to spiral downward, period.  And, so, we need to continue to focus on providing education, skill training, jobs. That’s really the answer. It is not rocket science.  It’s what we need to do. And we just cannot stop until they have those opportunities.

And I keep getting jazzed about all these different programs, and so, I feel like I can’t stop because these are such simple, easy ideas.

And if nobody else is focused on it, how can I say no? I have to do my part. We’re a small organization.  We are not going to change the world. But, the women who partake in the programs that we make grants to, without a doubt, their lives will change. And without a doubt, the lives of their children will be that much better.  And, so, again, it might be a small population of people. But, knowing that we can affect change in the lives of some people has to make us feel better than none. We can help one person, 50 people, it’s better than none.

Teal: You’ve done a lot of incredible work through Beyond the 11th. And your life post-9/11 has changed a lot too. You’ve remarried, you’ve had another baby, but, still, somehow most of the focus is on your role as a 9/11 widow. How does that make you feel?

Retik: I hate it. I do. When I first speak to somebody who wants to interview me and they always want me to tell them about that day. I don’t want to tell you about it. It’s so personal and I don’t really want to start thinking about it because it makes me upset. But, I know it’s what people are interested in, and I’m not naive to think that I can completely sever it. Because, unfortunately, people are not so moved by widows in Afghanistan, and that’s my passion. And if I want people to get jazzed about the cause then I have to just keep saying it.

 
SUGGESTED STORIES
  • thumb
    Memorial Day every day
    Beyond the backyard BBQ: Honor and aid those who have served.
  • Fast and too furious?
    Can accuracy and the demand for instant information coexist in the media?
  • thumb
      Steinbeck's Salinas Valley
    John Steinbeck's hometown came to worldwide notice through the Grapes of Wrath. Not all city fathers were pleased by the portrait. Explore what has changed and what remains the same in Salinas.

Comments

  • Laharris55

    Why is the mainstream media not covering heroic women like Susan Retik vs. wackjob Florida preachers? Compassionate, strong women like Retik are the best example of American heroism.

  • Anneopiano

    I love this article. Teaching to plant the edible landscaping. I have a friend who would love to do this, and ironically she can’t get any work in it.

  • http://johnbaronsblog.com John Baron

    Wow thanks so very much to you Gloria. A big thanks to Susan for what she is doing. We need more of this instead of all of the hatred in this world.

  • Anonymous

    I have so much respect for what Susan Retik is doing. It is going to be through education that we lift countries like Afghanistan out of poverty and internal strife. Susan Retik reminds me a lot of Greg Mortenson, author of “Three Cups of Tea”. Greg and Susan understand that armed forces and bombs are not going to improve the lives of Afghanis and Pakistanis. Imagine if we put all the money we’re using for bombs and invested them in books and schools for these countries. Just imagine how much further along we’d be in the peace process by now.

  • mc

    It is very unfortunate that even after so many years, there is no Freedom for Muslim Women especially in countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and some Arab nations including Saudi Arabia. Years ago, I remember seeing one of the episodes of 20-20 by Barbara Walters in a face-to-face interview with a Muslim Woman Doctor who cannot drive alone in the late evenings without a small boy accompanying her.
    Most of the Educated Muslim men and women have fled these countries and moved to Western Countries such as Australia, Canada, UK, and USA. Only Education should make the difference.

  • mc

    It is very unfortunate that even after so many years, there is no Freedom for Muslim Women especially in countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and some Arab nations including Saudi Arabia. Years ago, I remember seeing one of the episodes of 20-20 by Barbara Walters in a face-to-face interview with a Muslim Woman Doctor who cannot drive alone in the late evenings without a small boy accompanying her.
    Most of the Educated Muslim men and women have fled these countries and moved to Western Countries such as Australia, Canada, UK, and USA. Only Education should make the difference.

  • mc

    It is very unfortunate that even after so many years, there is no Freedom for Muslim Women especially in countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and some Arab nations including Saudi Arabia. Years ago, I remember seeing one of the episodes of 20-20 by Barbara Walters in a face-to-face interview with a Muslim Woman Doctor who cannot drive alone in the late evenings without a small boy accompanying her.
    Most of the Educated Muslim men and women have fled these countries and moved to Western Countries such as Australia, Canada, UK, and USA. Only Education should make the difference.