mayofamilyfoundation.comSkip to the content
On the fateful day of August 21, 2021, Simer Mayo, CEO at Valor Global and a YPO member, received a life-altering phone call. The call conveyed the dire situation of 172 young women, students at the Asian University for Women, who faced grave danger after the Taliban’s return to power. The community had endured persecution for centuries, and these young women were not only minorities but also women – prime targets for oppression under the Taliban’s rule.
Mayo and his wife, Vicki, immediately set to work, reaching out to local and global contacts, including YPO’s extensive network. Little did they know that this call would set in motion a series of events demonstrating the strength of human solidarity.
The YPO Global Network Comes Together: YPO member Christopher M. Schroeder recently organized a webinar for YPO’s Global Diplomacy Network, featuring key figures with expertise in Afghanistan. This event spurred hundreds of YPO members to offer their assistance and create global WhatsApp groups to address the unfolding crisis. Mayo, seeking help to evacuate the students, was directed to YPO member Andrew Robertson, CEO of AMS Global, who possessed a deep knowledge of Afghanistan and its culture.
The plan was set in motion to rescue the students. Seven buses were secured to transport them to Hamid Karzai International Airport, with designated leaders on each bus responsible for communication and coordination. However, they faced the daunting task of passing through 13 Taliban checkpoints before reaching the airport.
More YPO members and even U.S. politicians joined the mission, including Jake Cusack, a former Marine Corps platoon commander with experience in evacuation efforts. Cusack flew to Dubai to meet with Robertson, where they coordinated their efforts to bring the students to safety.
The first attempt to evacuate the students encountered numerous obstacles. Delays, traffic, and tense encounters at Taliban checkpoints tested the team’s resolve. After 30 hours, they reached the airport but were denied entry by Taliban soldiers, who tore up their documents. This setback was followed by the news that the arranged airplane was no longer available.
Amidst challenges and setbacks, the YPO network persevered, determined to find an alternative solution.
Plan B: Despite the exhaustion and frustration, the team continued to work tirelessly. They secured a landing slot at the airport and found a new plane for transport. Their focus remained on rescuing the students. Brad Cohen, another YPO member, played a crucial role in creating evacuation routes from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
After enduring sleepless nights, threats, and uncertainty, the team made the final attempt to rescue the students. Reports of potential suicide bombings near the airport added to the tension. Yet, they pressed on, knowing that there were no guarantees.
Their persistence paid off, and after hours of negotiation and waiting, all 146 students made it inside the airport. The YPO members had achieved their mission.
Today, every one of the rescued students is on full scholarships at universities in the United States. They await their visas and consider job opportunities at YPO member companies. The power of YPO and the collective effort of entrepreneurs and community leaders came together to save lives.
The remarkable story of YPO members coming together to rescue 147 Afghan students is a testament to the strength of human compassion, solidarity, and the power of community networks. In a time of crisis, these individuals demonstrated heroism and selflessness, proving that when like-minded efforts unite, extraordinary outcomes become possible. Their unwavering commitment to do the right thing has not only changed lives but serves as an inspiring example for us all.