I would like to congratulate Vicky Colbert of the Escuela Nueva Foundation, this year’s winner of the Kravis Prize in Leadership. Vicky’s work in reforming education for children in Latin America is making a real impact for those let down by traditional education systems. This is incredibly important work and Vicky deserves this great honor.

Speaking from my own experience, winning the Kravis Prize will allow Vicky and Escuela Nueva to reach a much larger audience of people interested in education. When I was awarded the Kravis Prize in 2009, I knew that it would help financially as well as help raise the visibility and prominence of my organization, the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL). What I didn’t anticipate was how the reputation of the Kravis Prize would bring AIL increased credibility on the international stage. The Prize has opened doors to many new opportunities and inspired my staff to work even harder than they had in the past. We greatly appreciate the honor and the feeling that people recognize and appreciate the importance of our work educating women and girls in Afghanistan.

To achieve our goal of educating women and girls in one of the world’s most oppressive countries, AIL responds to the needs of local communities. In our work, we have to think creatively in order to blend the culture and needs of Afghan women and children with new innovations in teaching, critical thinking skills, human rights, leadership and peace. Vicky and Escuela Nueva have developed incredibly innovative ways to improve the level of education through changing the roles of teachers and students in ways that really work. Students are taught how to learn on their own and develop self-reliance through participatory learning. This promotion of student-centered learning is transforming education in third world countries from ineffective, antiquated traditions into learning environments that meet the demands of modern day students.

Through the Kravis Prize, I have met many new people who all work to help people in developing countries. Knowing that we were not working alone in this endeavor and that people are so strongly encouraging our work was a great boost for AIL. Moreover, the financial impact of the Kravis Prize has allowed AIL to leverage other funds so that we can take on projects and expand our reach to even more people who are in need.

Before I sign off here, I want Vicky to know that she has so many people in the world who recognize the good work that she and Escuela Nueva are doing. Through the Kravis Prize, Vicky will learn that she and her staff are part of a much larger network of people who are working to educate children, and together we are making a tremendous impact on the future.

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi is the founder and executive director of the Afghan Institute of Learning, which is committed to bringing peace and dignity to Afghan people through improving the health and education of Afghan women and children. Through AIL, more than 350,000 women and children every year attend learning centers and visit health clinics. For more information on Dr. Yacoobi’s work and AIL, please read her page. If you would like to provide financial support to AIL and aid in its important endeavors, you can do so here.