Nine Afghan radio station owners and their Pashto interpreters spent several days last month in Tuba City learning about long-term economic stability in community radio stations.
The tour was sponsored by the State Department, whose funding overseas has been supporting a large number of Afghan stations in the wake of the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The American Councils for International Education organized the trip, helping a total of nine Afghan broadcasters from three provinces along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border to learn more about the industry from their American counterparts.
The planned itinerary would include trips to New York, Washington, D.C., and Arizona.
Alice Ferris and Jim Anderson of GoalBusters Consulting were asked to host the broadcasters because of their experience in helping several rural radio stations -- including KGHR Navajo Public Radio and KUYI Hopi Radio -- with their fundraising, sales and marketing efforts.
"At first, they wanted us to come down to Phoenix and teach them about long-term economic stability for community radio stations," she said.
A few weeks later, the American Councils had added another request: Could the station owners tour a rural radio station in Arizona, maybe a tribal station?
At the time, Anderson was the interim station manager for KGHR.
The pair jumped at the chance to work with the Afghan station owners.
Anderson remembers the first day of meeting the nine men who secretly traveled from their homes to receive the State Department training.
"What struck me was just looking at the faces of the group as they were getting trained and realizing that there have been certain voices in the news telling me for the last 10 years these men were my enemy," he said. "What I quickly realized was that these guys were no different from me or the news teams at the native stations we work with -- they are all trying to build a station and to serve their community."
The stakes were also higher.
"We have trouble getting people to donate," he said. "These guys have to worry about the Taliban."
Ferris said there were some cultural differences to overcome, including an unwillingness by individuals in the small communities in Afghanistan to give to any charity other than the local mosque.
"People there just give to the mosque," she said. "I know darn well I can't tell them to do a pledge drive. That's not going to work."
The pair advised the men that they needed to reach out to expats and governmental organizations as well as retailers.
"We didn't come up with a magical formula in the hour we spent talking about that, but it was interesting to talk about that," Ferris said.
Both Ferris and Anderson acknowledged that the long-term economic stability would need to come from outside sources in the near future as the U.S. begins to pull out of the country.
Joe Ferguson can be reached at 556-2253 or email@example.com.