Warm, low lighting splashes the walls at The Mill in downtown Chattanooga. Photographs from Afghanistan, printed on canvas, accent the room. The smells of saffron, cumin, garlic, black pepper, and coriander waft from the exotic Middle Eastern dishes.
A well-dressed crowd has gathered to enjoy the event, appropriately titled “A Night in Afghanistan,” to support Noshaq, a non-profit organization founded and led by a Southern Adventist University student.
Luther Whiting, senior business administration major, is using the skills he learns in his classes at Southern to foster economic development in rural Afghanistan.
During the dinner, attendees contributed to the organization by sponsoring tables, bidding in the silent auction, and making direct donations. They learned more about Noshaq’s history and mission from various speakers.
“It was a way for us to introduce ourselves to the Chattanooga community, as well as a way to raise some much-needed funds for Noshaq’s projects,” says Whiting.
“I felt like I got a good taste of what Afghanistan is like with all the authentic food,” says April McNulty, junior social work major who attended. “It makes me excited to see that somebody is taking action to empower the economic development of Afghanistan.”
At the April 2 dinner the organization raised more than $17,000.
Whiting first saw the need for economic development in Afghanistan in 2006, while visiting his parents who were working in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capitol.
“I was amazed and fascinated with the country,” recalls Luther. “I had all these preconceptions of Afghanistan that just weren’t true. The thing that struck me the hardest, though, was the need I saw.”
Two years later Whiting decided to volunteer for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Afghanistan. As a business administration major at Southern, he realized how the skills he learned in class could help the people of Afghanistan develop their economy. In 2009, at the age of 19, Whiting founded Noshaq.
Noshaq will begin its first project in May 2011, employing Afghan laborers to reconstruct a road that was destroyed by a landslide in 2005. The road will connect the remote village of Khermanuk to other nearby villages in the mountainous Badakhshan province.
Zach Goldstein, a junior animation major at Southern who attended the banquet, is impressed with Noshaq’s work.
“I think it’s smart for them to build a road first. They need the infrastructure before they start with other projects, like schools,” says Goldstein.
Noshaq plans to continue economic development projects in Khermanuk and expand its mission to other rural areas of Afghanistan.