When Roni LaBarbera agreed to host a young Afghan woman in her North Carolina home two years ago, she didn’t foresee that visit would be the catalyst for launching her Afghan Women’s Education Project.

The teenager, Husnia, only needed lodging for a few weeks. She was a volunteer interpreter for a hospitalized Afghan boy who was arriving in the U.S. for life-saving surgery. Husnia had never been to a movie theatre or an airport, but she made the risky decision to leave her homeland to accompany the ailing child. Roni, who runs a tutoring business, was impressed by Husnia’s dedication to learning medical terms and studying English. She felt compelled to aid Husnia’s pursuit of education. Roni helped Husnia apply to nearby universities and eventually enroll in college.

“When you see a young woman who doesn’t have the opportunity to be the best she can be, you can’t walk away from that.”

Since then, Roni has also helped Husnia’s twin sister get accepted into college, assisted a young woman in obtaining a visa so she could keep her scholarship, and guided a girl in finding a host family so she could continue attending school. Now Roni is a screening captain for Girl Rising with two sold-out showings. Roni has already rolled out her welcome mat for determined young women seeking education and soon she’ll roll out the red carpet for Husnia to give the opening remarks at her screenings!