Partnership for the Education of Children in Afghanistan

Building Peace, One School at a Time
Dr. Ghafar Lakanwal (Founder of P.E.C.A)

Dr. Ghafar Lakanwal is a native of Afghanistan, a Muslim and an American citizen. He was born and raised in Afghanistan. Dr. Lakanwal studied Agricultural Science at the Kabul University of Afghanistan. After finishing his doctorate at the Institute of Rural Sociology and Applied Psychology at the University of Hohenheim in Germany, he worked for the German International Development Agency until 1978. In August of that year, Dr. Lakanwal returned to his country to be part of the social and economic changes that were introduced by the new government. In December of 1979, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.

Dr. Lakanwal still wanted to be part of the process of change. In March of 1982, he was appointed to the position of Minister of Agriculture. In 1986, because of his opposition to the government, he was placed under house arrest for two years, until February 1988. The political changes in the former Soviet Union led by Mikhail Gorbachev also brought changes in his life. He was released from house arrest in February 1988. From March of 1988 to November, Dr. Lakanwal was Deputy Foreign Minister and head of the Afghan Delegation to the United Nations General Assembly. In December 1988, while on an official visit to New York, he asked the United States government for political asylum. In February 1996, he became a citizen of the United States of America.

In October 1991, Ghafar Lakanwal founded the Minnesota Cultural Diversity Center, a non-profit organization that promoted multicultural understanding and inclusiveness in the workplace as well as in the community. He developed and nurtured the "Sharing Diversity"TM concept for MCDC. Dr. Lakanwal is a practitioner, event coordinator and a speaker in the area of cultural diversity. He has traveled to over 30 countries and speaks English, German, Russian, Persian and his native language, Pashto.

Dr. Lakanwal has served as a Board Member of the Council of Asian-Pacific Minnesotans. In 1997, Dr. Lakanwal was presented with the Exemplary Practices Award from the American Society for Public Administration. In 2001, he was the recipient of the Omar Bonderud Award given by the Human Rights Commission of the City of Bloomington. In 2005, Lakanwal was presented with the International Leadership Institute's Immigrant Achievement Award. In 2009, Lakanwal received the Multicultural Forum on Workplace Diversity's Winds of Change Award as well as the St. Paul Foundation's Facing Race Ambassador Award for leadership in creating an anti-racist community.

Santwana Dasgupta (Executive Director)

Santwana is an American of East Indian origin. She got involved in the Peace and Social Justice movement by joining the group Peace in the Precincts, a program of Friends for a Non-Violent World. After working for various organizations in the technology sector and volunteering extensively in her spare time, she took on a part-time job as a Program Co-coordinator for Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition and as a volunteer Development Director for Friends for a Non-Violent World.

She visited Afghanistan for the first time in 2006 and was moved both by the devastation caused by decades of war and by the valiant efforts of the Afghans to rebuild their country. She started as a volunteer with P.E.C.A, became a board member in 2007 and is now honored to serve P.E.C.A as the Executive Director.

She visited Afghanistan each year starting in 2006 to move the work of P.E.C.A forward, and then got the support of her family to move to Kabul for two years and work directly from the ground. She took a position with the Higher Education Project, an USAID funded program, and taught leadership and management classes to the Education Faculty of 22 Universities and Institutes of Higher Learning across Afghanistan. She also worked with an all women’s group at the Kabul Education University to develop their leadership and management skills. After a brief respite back in Minneapolis, she took a position with The Asia Foundation in Kabul.

She continues to be awed, inspired and humbled by the tenacity, bravery, entrepreneurship, never-give-up attitudes of the people of Afghanistan, who continue to make steady progress in the rebuilding of their nation, often against overwhelming odds and difficult conditions.