Afghan All-Girls Robotics Team Offered College Scholarships, Says Oklahoma Mom Who Helped Them Escape Taliban
There may be no force more powerful than maternal instinct. So when Taliban extremists retook Afghanistan, an Oklahoma mom who’d come to think of some gifted Afghan girls as adopted daughters moved heaven and earth to help get them to safety.
Harvard graduate Allyson Reneau has 11 kids of her own, but there was still plenty of room in her heart for the members of Afghanistan’s all-girl robotics team, a.k.a. “the Afghan Dreamers.”
Reneau and the tight-knit group bonded back in 2019 when they met at a Washington D.C.-based Humans to Mars summit. (Having nine biological daughters probably helped.)
In the weeks building up to the recent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, Reneau became increasingly concerned for the girls’ welfare. Unable to shake the fear the Dreamers were in imminent danger, Reneau became frustrated by the lack of cooperation at home in the U.S. to secure their safety.
Rather than wait, she decided to head to the sanctuary country of Qatar, hoping to use the connections she had there to help expedite a rescue. In conjunction with the Dreamers’ parent organization Digital Citizen Fund (DCF), and the Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Reneau was able to pull some strings and get the exit process rolling.
Soon enough, 10 robotics team members between the ages of 16 and 18 were boarded on a commercial flight. (Some members of the team and the girls’ families have yet to leave Kabul. Efforts to secure their relocation are ongoing.)
After receiving word from the girls to say they’d made it out of Kabul, Reneau was overcome with emotion.
“I got a text from one of the girls that just said: ‘We did it.’ All the emotion from two weeks of work and running into a wall constantly, and burying your feelings, and bearing your feelings for the girls, it just hit me all at once,” Reneau told Business Insider.
DCF board member Elizabeth Schaeffer Brown says that while it took the combined efforts of several entities to ensure the girls’ release, she credits their own grit and self-determination as a key factor in the successful outcome.
“Ultimately the girls ‘rescued’ themselves,” Brown told NBC News. “If it were not for their hard work and courage to pursue an education, which brought them in contact with the world, they would still be trapped. We need to continue to support them and others like them.”
Since arriving in Qatar, the girls have been inundated with numerous scholarships from several prestigious U.S. universities, and Reneau is confident they will make the most of those opportunities.
“For the first time in their life, I really believe they have the freedom to choose and to be the architects of their own destiny and their own future,” Reneau told Insider. “It’s the freeing feeling to me to know that they will be able to go somewhere and get educated wherever they want.”
And isn’t that what every loving mom wants for her kids?
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