Story of AWAKEN’s founder.
Bibi Bahrami grew up in the small village of Qala-e-Malakh, located in the Behsood District of the Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, near the city of Jalalabad.
As a girl, she wanted what most children want – to be healthy, to go to school, and to be somebody when she grew up. She therefore studied her brothers’ books in the evenings, after long days of hard work at home. She wanted to create a better life not just for herself, but for others—a value that had been instilled in her at a young age by her family.
In 1979, when Bibi was 13 years old, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan—eventually taking the lives of one of her brothers, three cousins, and her grandfather—and her peaceful life was suddenly taken from her. A year later, she and her family were forced to flee from Afghanistan, walking on a two-day journey through the mountains before arriving at a refugee camp in Pakistan. Attending school in the camp was unsafe for girls, so Bibi spent the next six years cooking, cleaning, and providing medical assistance to other refugees, alongside her father. Despite the difficulties of the refugee life, Bibi met her future husband, Saber Bahrami, a medical student. Two years later, they were engaged, and then Saber went off to the United States to finish his residency.
Watch a video about a day in the life of Bibi Bahrami, AWAKEN's founder and president.
In 1986, Bibi boarded a plane to join her fiancé in the U.S., leaving behind her home and family. Soon after she arrived in Indiana, Bibi and Saber were married, and Bibi started a new life in a new country. She became homesick, experienced culture shock, and could not speak English, but with Saber’s encouragement and support, she learned English, earned a GED, and continued her education at Ball State University. She managed to do all of this while raising six children and caring for her elderly mother-in-law. “None of this would have been possible without the amazing educational system provided to me in America,” recalls Bibi. “I was exceedingly thankful for my situation.”
Nevertheless, the images of Afghan women and children who suffered during the war and under the Taliban never left Bibi’s mind, and she was determined to continue helping in any way that she could. On several occasions, between 1986 and 2002, she and Saber returned to refugee camps in Pakistan and rural villages of Afghanistan. They took medical and humanitarian supplies and treated as many people as possible.
But Bibi wanted to do more.