Early in their deployment, Captain's Jon, Josh, Ryan and Joey were haunted by the looming reality of the eventual U.S. withdrawal. They realized that by 2014, the United States and its coalition partners would be withdrawing personnel, funding, and resources from a ravaged and vulnerable country. In order to make their efforts more meaningful and lasting, they came up with a plan to uplift and empower Afghanistan’
The officers had a vision. They imagined an organization that would allow local villages to achieve self-sufficiency based on their own talents and strengths. At the same time, they were deeply impressed by the beauty and quality craftsmanship of scarfs created by women in local villages. The officers recognized a product found in the local Afghan bazaar that would be valued back in the U.S. In an ordinary object, they found extraordinary potential. That’s how Flying Scarfs was born.
Flying Scarfs represents the intersection of free market capitalism and social responsibility. It is a privately driven, jobs-based nonprofit organization employing women artisans of Afghanistan. Inspired by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus’ Social Business Model, Flying Scarfs believes that business can meet not just financial interests, but social and humanitarian goals as well. It is much more than a charity program, which by definition is dependent upon donations. The startup costs came primarily from the founders themselves, which allowed them to bypass the slow processes of beaurocracy and has ensured the direct delivery of funds to the women artisans at the heart of the organization.
The founders of Flying Scarfs believe that encouraging economic development among Afghanistan’
In employing these women, Flying Scarfs is enabling their children to attend school when they otherwise would have to work, likely selling plastic bags in the street. In fact, one of Flying Scarfs’ long-term goals is to establish a scholarship fund to give such children an opportunity to study in the U.S. By employing its women now, Flying Scarfs is also simultaneously investing in Afghanistan’
Flying Scarfs is committed not just to American interests or Afghan interests, but the interests of humankind. Its cornerstone values of mutual respect and social entrepreneurship could potentially serve as a model for future international relations in countries similarly struggling with poverty and violence. Given the negative recent events in Afghanistan, from the burning of the Koran to the violent rampage of a rogue soldier, the already fragile U.S. reputation in Afghanistan is deeply tarnished. Genuine expressions of hope and goodwill such as Flying Scarfs are more important than ever. One scarf at a time, one woman at a time, lives are being changed forever.
The partnership between Team Flying Scarfs and Team Tulsi is one rooted in mutual respect and servant leadership. Flying Scarfs is proud to have the support of a fellow combat veteran like Representative Tulsi Gabbard who sees the potential of entrepreneurship in Afghanistan through the empowerment of women.