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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011 5 years ago

Afghan entrepreneur reflects on apprenticeship

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Bajalia markets Afghan jewelry

Khan Aga, an Afghan entrepreneur, visited Winter Park last week as a guest of Bajalia International as part of an entrepreneurship program sponsored by the State Department and Business Council for Peace. While in the U.S., he was visiting companies as an apprentice and visited Washington and New York as well as Winter Park. Before heading back to Afghanistan, he was interviewed by Debbie Farah, CEO and founder of Bajalia, about his experience in Winter Park.

Farah: What was your impression of the community of Winter Park?

Aga: I thought this was going to be a place like New York City, but I was struck with the beauty and all the green space and how warm and friendly everyone is.

Farah: You visited Rollins College. What was your impression of it?

Aga: I wish we could build a place like Rollins College in Afghanistan, for our future generations. Education is very important. My wife and I were the first of our families to go through 12 standard (grade). I am educating my children including my daughters, and they will be the first generation in our family to go to college. My dream would be for them to go to a place like this.

Farah: What left the biggest impression on you here in Winter Park?

Aga: To see my jewelry on display at Bajalia. And to see it on TV on HSN, and to see that you actually have a bakery for dogs. I was so surprised to find out that you have a bakery dedicated solely for dogs and that an economy can be so strong to afford such luxury. Our economy is not even strong enough to support our children and families.

Farah: What did you think of the training you received from your host company here in Winter Park?

Aga: This training was most worthy. I learned things here that I can use to help me grow my business and create even more jobs in Afghanistan. In just two days spent at Bajalia, I learned as much as if I had spent a month in training. Bajalia and BPeace have helped me grow from eight people employed to 48, with that impacting 288 people. And in Afghanistan and other countries for each job created, seven more are created so that is over 336 jobs. It was a dream to visit this company that is responsible for 50 percent of my business. My wife and I work together, and I think that it is OK for women to work and that men and women working together is good for the family and good for the future of our country.

Farah: Would you like to come back and visit Winter Park?

Aga: If I came back a thousand times it would not be enough. One of the things I loved about my visit at Bajalia was that it felt like a eastern store, and I felt very much at home, and seeing my wife’s picture with our jewelry made me very happy.

To learn more about the BPeace apprenticeship road trip (BART) visit Bpeace.org. To learn more about Bajalia’s work with global entrepreneurs, visit them at bajalia.com or at 520 S. Park Ave., where you will see the jewelry that Khan Aga and his wife, Bahktnazira, export to help change their world.

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