The students are raising money to help the Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation, a nonprofit founded by humanitarian Razia Jan, who is hosting a Town Hall in Seattle on Sunday.

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Maxime Johnstone was 7 years old when she researched the struggle young girls in Afghanistan face getting an education. To help, the Seattle girl went without birthday presents and instead asked her friends to fundraise.

Now, roughly two years later, Maxime has rallied her friends to keep the effort going, raising money periodically with lemonade stands and other homegrown sales to benefit the Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation. The nonprofit runs a school outside of Kabul that provides free education for hundreds of Afghan girls.

Once in awhile, Maxime said eagerly, she receives notes from the Afghan girls, saying things such as, “I have no words to thank you.”

Want to help the foundation?

$300 supports a girl for one year, covering costs such as her uniform, winter clothes, books and stationery.

Donate online at or by sending checks to: Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation, P.O. Box 81052, Wellesley, MA 02481 and founder Razia Jan

The nonprofit’s founder, humanitarian Razia Jan, is visiting Seattle this week, a trip punctuated with a Town Hall forum on Sunday. She has dedicated years to building connections between Afghans and Americans, specifically with the school, Zabuli Education Center, that opened in 2008.

“The two countries are so apart,” Jan said before a reception Thursday to celebrate the efforts of the Seattle elementary-school children. “To see the children here really caring, I think, it is such a great feeling.”

Jan, who was born in Afghanistan, studied English and in 1970 moved to the U.S. and operated a small tailoring business in Massachusetts. She started thinking about the ways she could help people in need, specifically in her home country.

When she first returned to Afghanistan, she “found that the country had been set back 100 years, and that the role of women had been set back 500 years,” said Maxime’s father, L. Craig Johnstone, a retired U.S. ambassador and former United Nations deputy high commissioner for refugees.

“She (Jan) set out trying to correct that situation through education,” he said at the reception in downtown Seattle.

The Zabuli Education Center is the first all-girls school in the remote, conservative area, providing classes for girls ages 4 to 22. They are from poor families, and some have experienced intense hardship with war. The foundation is also building a postsecondary vocational school nearby, set to open in March.

“To educate a girl, you really educate the whole family, and when you educate a boy, you educate the boy,” Jan said. “If we help these girls with their education, we’ll have a better life, their families will have a better life, and I can already see great change among them.”

Jan actively works to convince people, such as parents and local leaders, that the learning is worthwhile, since most often girls stay home until marriage, she said. She also ensures the students are safe from threats and violence — for instance, by providing safe transportation.

“I hope that these girls will become something,” she said at the reception. “They want to be different, they want to achieve.”

A documentary, “What Tomorrow Brings,” captures a yearslong, intimate look into Jan’s work through stories from students, teachers and others in the area. Jan’s Seattle visit is part of a broader trip to publicize the film, she said.

On Thursday, the Seattle students addressed the dozens of parents and other donors, expressing pride in their efforts.

“It makes me feel very good that I’m supporting and helping them,” Maxime said. “It was a lot of hard work.”