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Remember Ashton, help Afghan women

June 24, 2010

After Melissa Pritchard’s story about her January 2009 visit to Panjshir Province, Afghan, as an embedded reporter appeared in the May 2010 issue of O Magazine, Pritchard was deluged with e-mails and phone calls.

Everyone had the same question: What can we do to honor Ashton?

Ashton Goodman was a young woman in the Air Force who was assigned to a Provincial Reconstruction Team’s women’s affairs division in Panjshir Province. Pritchard and Goodman became fast friends in the short time that Pritchard was there.

Pritchard was stunned to learn, several months after she returned home, that Goodman, just 21 years old, had been killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

“In meeting the women of Panjshir Province, she had been quick to praise their intelligence and courage, and to advocate passionately for their education and increased roles in leadership,” Pritchard said.

“Days before her death, she had asked to stay on in Panjshir, as she felt she was making a difference, ‘with words, not weapons.’ She even imagined bringing her children to Panjshir Province one day, to show them how their mother had helped in the peaceful building of schools, medical clinics and women’s leadership programs.”

Now there is an answer to that question, what can we do to honor Ashton?

The Afghan Women’s Writing Project (AWWP) has set up the Sr. Airman Ashton Goodman Grant, which will support the writing and theater programs for Afghan women sponsored by AWWP.

Donations can be made in two ways:

First, via PayPal through the website (Follow up with an e-mail to saying you’d like your donation to go to the Ashton Goodman grant.)

Second, a check made out to AWWP may be mailed to AWWP/Christina Asquith, 6 Hilliard Place, Cambridge, MA 02138.
Members of the Senior Airman Ashton Goodman Grant’s board of directors will determine the use of the grant monies for AWWP and give a report on their use annually. Board members are Masha Hamilton, founder of AWWP; Pritchard; and Asquith.

Hamilton, a novelist, founded AWWP after her last trip to Afghanistan in November 2008. Her interest in Afghanistan was sparked in the late 1990s during the Taliban period, when she understood it “was one of the worst places in the world to be a woman.”

AWWP offers online writing classes for women in Afghanistan, taught by American writers and teachers. The students’ work is published on the AWWP website, often anonymously, for the authors’ safety.

For more information on AWWP, go to

Pritchard said donations in any amount are welcome for the Ashton Goodman Grant. “Please help us transform the tragedy of Ashton’s death into an enduring tribute to her brave spirit and an act of hope and support for the women of Afghanistan.”