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American Grandma Pays for Wounded Afghan Boy’s Education

On April 29, 2014, I caught NBC Nightly News “Making a Difference” segment about a New Hampshire grandma who helped a wounded boy in Afghanistan. I was deeply touched and contacted NBC to find out how I could reach the grandma. Recently, Cindy Barrett and I talked on the phone for over an hour. Below is her incredibly moving story of kindness.

We grandmas are known for our big hearts. New Hampshire grandma, Cindy Barrett fits that image, and then some. Cindy saw an NBC Nightly News story on the casualties of war in Afghanistan that tore at her heart. The story featured 12-year old Obaid, an Afghan boy who lost his two sisters and his two legs in a bombing. She immediately put the faces of her own grandsons on the face of Obaid and wanted to help him.

“I had a very emotional response to it,” Cindy told NBC reporter Richard Engel (see photo). “I connected with this boy because I have young grandsons and my grandchildren are healthy and strong and athletic. They’re growing up in a relatively safe and privileged environment and we have some of the best medical care available to us here. And the contrast was just too much for me to ignore, to see this child.”

Cindy sprang into action. She called NBC to get the email of the hospital in Kabul where Obaid was being treated and fitted for prosthetic legs. Over several weeks Cindy corresponded back and forth with three NBC producers never giving up, even after a check she mailed was blocked by her bank. Cindy learned that the Red Cross would pay for his prosthetics but a contribution to his education would be most welcome. NBC saw her genuine commitment to helping Obaid and wanted to connect her with a person who could manage such a complicated task. They all persisted in a team effort and ultimately Cindy has agreed to pay for two years of Obaid’s education at a private school in Kabul.

So far her contribution has paid for books, a school uniform and at least one year’s tuition at a private school in Kabul. Obaid is now one of the top students in his class and is learning English. His latest goal? To become a heart surgeon.

Once she made her donation NBC wanted to share her story on television. They asked her repeatedly and she said absolutely not. She didn’t want the attention on herself. But they were so persistent that Cindy finally gave in and agreed to be interviewed. I’m glad she did because her story is so inspiring it needs to be shared.

In the interview, Richard Engel personally delivered Obaid’s thank you note to Cindy who also watched a video of Obaid trying on his prosthesis for the first time. “Not in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine this would happen,” Cindy said.

Cindy displayed true empathy for the young boy and was moved to action. She knows there are “countless children who have injuries like Obaid and it’s impossible to help all of them,” Cindy told Engel. “But it’s not impossible to help one of them. And that’s why I’m glad I have this connection.”

NBC sent Cindy footage of Obaid’s first day of school and hopes next year to do a follow up to the story. After Obaid learns more English, they may even Skype together.

Since the story aired, Cindy has set up a crowdfunding website, Step Up With Obaid, to raise more funds for him and his needy family. Her 15-year old grandson, Noah helped her put the news on Twitter. Cindy’s seven other grandchildren, who range in age from 7 to 22, are proud of their grandmother’s act of kindness.

Watch the NBC Nightly News “Making a Difference” segment.

3 thoughts on “American Grandma Pays for Wounded Afghan Boy’s Education”

  1. I really love to read posts about what ONE person can do! Not that she didn’t need others to make the connection, etc., but it was ONE person who pursued her heartfelt commitment to help this young boy. We all can’t help every one, but each one of us can help someone! Thanks for an inspiring post…

  2. Beautiful story Donne – Cindy sounds a lot like you: determined when she’s on a mission.
    It must have been wonderful to have that conversation with her.
    We will donate to the fund.
    Thanks for Sharing,

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