Speaking in Harmony
An online English tutoring program by Bentley students for students in Afghanistan offers more than language lessons; it promotes peace in a country at war.
Robert McNulty, director of programs for Bentley’s Hoffman Center for Business Ethics, launched the program Pax Populi (Latin for “the People’s Peace”) in 2009.
Learning English, he says, opens opportunities for Afghans to be part of the global economy. “If you are poor and don’t have a voice, you are very susceptible to extremism. If you have a good job, perhaps you preserve that security by buying a home and raising a family. That is where education can be very helpful.”
The Bentley Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Center coordinates student tutors, who use video conferencing to teach Afghan students like Haroon Ehsan.
“Our discussions helped me open my mind to new ideas, cultures and beliefs,” says Ehsan, who enrolled in Pax Populi at age 15.
The education goes both ways. Bentley tutor Jacob Kalish ’20 had expected cultural differences to overshadow the tutor-student relationship.
“I could not have been more wrong. After breaking down the surface-level barriers, we are all just people made of the same stuff,” says Kalish, who is now studying for an MS in Finance.
“It’s easy to forget what a blessing it is to pursue higher education,” adds fellow tutor Mary Sullivan ’22 (left), a Public Policy major. “Through Pax Populi, I’ve grown more grateful and also recognized a passion for social justice.”
The program prompted Ehsan to “set higher goals” for himself. Instead of following the traditional path of working after high school to help support his family, he is studying politics at the American University of Central Asia.
“I learned there are people who genuinely care about my country and want to help us, despite my people’s terrible experiences with exploitation by outsiders,” he says. “It gave me hope.”