Since her graduation from Marygrove College six years ago, Khris Nedam, third grade teacher, has done much more than just teach school-she has helped build one.
Armed with a teaching degree and a mastery of French, she taught school in France, Turkey, Afghanistan, and the U. S. But that was just the beginning. In 1998 while she was teaching at Meads Mill Middle School, a contact from Afghanistan shared with her class the condition of the economy, education and family life in Afghanistan. Moved by the account, Nedam and her sixth grade students founded Kids4AfghanKids, a non-profit organization whose goal is to re-establish educational facilities for boys and girls in Afghanistan.
In three years, they had raised enough money to build a six-room schoolhouse in Afghanistan. Approximately 450 students filled the school when it was built. By 2004 over 1,200 students regularly crowd into the tiny building in shifts.
"That rural village now has so much hope for the future of their children," says Nedam. What started as a Northville Public School project became an enterprise with partner schools all across America, as well as schools in Belgium and France. In addition to the school, a medical clinic, bakery/kitchen, guest house, orphanage, and the only deep-water well in the valley have been built. More than 250 babies have been born at the clinic.
"Her compassion for the need, purpose and value of this effort is clear, honest and forthright," says Northville Superintendent Leonard Rezmierski. "Her commitment to help people, albeit thousands of miles away, is admirable and worthy of recognition."
Several organizations have assisted the building process such as UNICEF and church organizations. The Northville Rotary and Northville Schools worked together to raise $20,000 in four months. Under the guidance of Nedam, Kids4AfghanKids has received national acclaim and media coverage, including Newsweek and ABC's "20/20 Downtown."
More importantly, in 2002 the Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI, Arlington, Virginia) put Kids4AfghanKids on the top of their list as one of the most reliable humanitarian organizations. In 2002 Nedam was honored with the Governor's Service Award, and in 2003 she received the Michigan Association of School Board's "Best of the Best" award.
Watching her students here make friends with children half a world away is important to Nedam. And watching them make a dreams come true is even better.
"My students have learned an important lesson through a real-life connection," she says. "They've learned that with persistence and hard work, they can make their dreams come true and make a difference in the world."
According to Steven Anderson, principal at Amerman Elementary School, Nedam finds time for everyone and listens with her heart. "Kids4AfghanKids, teaching and being a single parent fill Nedam's days with 'to-do' lists. Despite this, she still manages to find time to draw students and adults out of their daily struggles and focus them on larger issues," he said.
Nedam strives to help her students find their own special gifts and to think outside the box. "People are more important than things," says Nedam. "Bills, cleaning, and 'stuff' won't go away. Enjoy the people in your life, laugh, and be a good friend.
"Kids today need to understand that differences are okay," she said. "We should support each other in our differences and be willing to reach out and help each other."