Activision Blizzard Honored for Aiding Threatened Afghan Students and Families
International public service award recognizes our work assisting the evacuation and relocation of several hundred students, faculty, and families from Kabul to safe havens around the world.
Our ask was simple — ‘How can we help?’
I made that open-ended offer, during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan to a former State Department colleague (and friend) last summer, on behalf of Activision Blizzard. And that’s how we were initially connected to the inspiring team at the Friends of the American University of Afghanistan (FAUAF) – an incredible non-profit that for nearly 15 years has championed its namesake university’s mission to protect academic freedom, opportunity, and empowerment in Afghanistan.
At the time, the situation facing students at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) could only be described as dire, especially for women publicly known to be pursuing higher education. It’s no exaggeration to say they were direct targets of the Taliban.
For us, it immediately set off a quiet (and urgent) yearlong effort to mobilize for the school’s students, faculty, staff, and their families.
Earlier this month, I attended an event hosted by FAUAF in Washington D.C., where our CEO, Bobby Kotick, accepted their International Public Service Award on behalf of Activision Blizzard.
Addressing the group, he remarked, “One of the things that you realize is that the heroes are those who serve so ably and capably in Afghanistan, and all of the work that your (referring to FAUAF) trustees, your faculty and your staff do, makes our participation in this very easy.”
This honor is the result of deep collaboration between a handful of organizations that came together for the education community during a time of unprecedented need. As a coalition, we attempted to evacuate and relocate as many people as we could.
When resources had to be marshaled in real-time across multiple continents, there was a need not only for funding but people who could knock down barriers during the fog of crisis. Given our longtime advocacy for veterans through the Call of Duty Endowment, we were especially attuned to the situation in Afghanistan and able to help rally the right organizations and expertise.
To start, we secured and provided an emergency financial grant for the resettlement of students and scholars. In August, the airlifts were on. Nearly 130 students, faculty, staff, and families were scheduled to travel on the initial flight from Kabul to Doha, from where they could relocate to new higher-ed institutions. Unfortunately, only 44 disembarked. We learned that the Taliban had raided the aircraft and prevented unaccompanied women from leaving the country.
The outcome of that first mission was bittersweet – and a signal of why we need to keep supporting groups like FAUAF – but I’ll always remember something we heard from a young woman who made it out only because the Taliban mistook her brother, sitting beside her, for her husband. She said, “When a girl in Afghanistan is allowed to turn her goals into reality, she grabs hold and doesn’t let go.”
Her words are a direct reminder of the responsibility we bear to better connect human potential and promise with possibilities. They’re a reminder of our obligation to invest in building stronger communities where we can. And they’re a reminder of our commitment to better unleash the power in our platforms and our ability to harness resources as fuel, so many more people’s hopes are realized.
Our work with FAUAF continues, and through our partnership, our ambition is to continue assisting as many young people as we can to continue their studies unimpeded. AUAF enrolled 70 new undergraduate students for the semester following the fall of Kabul, and recently welcomed 300 new students for the fall semester – including 200 women. And they continue to provide education to over 916 students, 600 of whom are currently in Afghanistan and attending virtually.
Supporting this new Afghan diaspora - the young men and women that make up the AUAF community - provides hope for the Afghan people, and we are happy to be a partner in enabling that.
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About the Author
Brian Bulatao serves as Chief Administrative Officer at Activision Blizzard. He also oversees the Call of Duty Endowment, a non-profit organization that's placed over 100,000 veterans into high-quality jobs. Brian is also a veteran and recipient of the Distinguished Intelligence Medal for his leadership and significant contributions to national security.