Rock musician creates guitar school for street children in Afghanistan

Rock musician creates guitar school for street children in Afghanistan

U.S. rock musician Lanny Cordola has founded a guitar school for street children in Afghanistan.

Cordola, who is from Los Angeles, was inspired to start “The Miraculous Love Kids” guitar school in Kabul after learning the stories of Parwana and Khorshid, two sisters who were killed in a suicide attack in September 2012.

“I never ever thought of coming to Afghanistan, but two years ago I came here to meet the family of Parwana and Khorshid,” Cordola said.

Four months after the visit, Cordola returned to Afghanistan to start a guitar school for street children with the larger vision of allowing the children to travel and tell their stories through song.

“The plan is to make this an entity where they can travel the world, play music, tell the story about their lives and the people of Afghanistan,” Cordola said. “And then to collaborate with other girls with similar backgrounds, with kids from different parts of the world and turn it into an international, global phenomenon.”

The guitar school serves about 50 children and provides a place to heal from tragedy.

One student, Mursal, was just seven years old when she lost her two older sisters Parwana and Khorshid during the suicide attack. Mursal, now 12, attends the guitar school and describes it as a life-changing experience.

“It was some years after the death of Parwana and Khorshid. We went to a restaurant and they told me, ‘this is Mr Lanny’. He gave me a guitar and now that I started learning to play and sing, it has changed my life and opened a new world,” Marsul said.

Marsul dreams of becoming a teacher and to “teach guitar to all the girls in the world” in order to create a peaceful future.

The children at The Miraculous Love Kids guitar school have been playing informally around Kabul and are beginning to receive invites to play at concerts.

After tragedy, teen finds healing in canoeing, is recognized by the White House

After tragedy, teen finds healing in canoeing, is recognized by the White House

In 2012, Hamilton Seymour lost his father to suicide. The event left 15 year old Seymour, a member of the Nooksack Indian Tribe from Bellingham, suffering. Seymour wanted to find a positive way to cope with the loss. In doing so, he found healing through paddling his canoe.

Seymour told the Seattle Times that canoeing has been a great help, “It’s my personal outlet. It’s where I can get away, even if I’m with people.”

Seymour’s family has a strong tradition of paddling. His father was a champion paddler. “He was a phenomenal man,” Seymour said, “and I’d like to carry out his name and his spirit through paddling. … I feel like paddling is only one of the few things that I have left of him.”

Paddling helped Seymour handle stress and improved his mental health. Now, Seymour is encouraging other members of his tribe to cope with grief by carving canoes and celebrating their culture by singing traditional Native songs as they paddle. Through this, Seymour hopes to keep the culture alive through traditional sports. He has recruited 11 other teens to help him paddle canoes during races.

Seymour’s efforts are helping his community, “What paddling is doing for us is getting us stronger — obviously physically, but also mentally, spiritually and emotionally. It’s just beautiful.”

Seymour’s work in his community is gaining attention. Earlier this year, Seymour, along with five Indian youth from across the United States, won a “champion of change” award from the Center for Native American Youth. The award recognizes Native youth who are making a difference in their communities by drawing attention to issues such as sexual abuse and suicide.

In addition to winning the award, Seymour was chosen to introduce Michelle Obama before her speech at the first White House Tribal Youth Gathering in Washington D.C.

Seymour’s friends say that he has grown a lot. Sarah Scott, a Lummi Nation’s tribal youth-recreation program mentor, commented on Seymour’s growth, “I’ve known Hammi my whole life — he’s our baby. In the last year, he’s just blossomed into this natural leader on a national platform, and to me that is just so inspiring.”

Seymour also feels that his life is changing for the better, “I can’t tell the future, but I’m really hoping, and I really feel like it’s going to be great.”

Bike safety advocate remembered by family and bicycling community

Bike safety advocate remembered by family and bicycling community


Bike safety advocate and avid bicyclist Kirke Johnson died in a bicycling collision on Thursday, November 20.

“Kirke was a gentle, peaceful, thoughtful and intellectually curious man who will be greatly missed,” Leslie Riester, his former supervisor at Portland Community College (PCC), told The Oregonian.

Kirke’s story is one of resilience, with his passion for biking at its center. After intensive surgery to remove a cancerous mouth tumor, Kirke remained hospital-bound for a week.

“Two weeks later he was back on his bike,” Kirke’s daughter, Heather Johnson, told The Oregonian. “The doctors were amazed.”

Described as gracious and soft-spoken, Kirke biked nearly 20 miles each to work at PCC, Sylvania. His bright yellow, reflective bike became a common sight along Northwest Cornell Road.

Kirke and his wife, Katharina, worked to promote bike safety in Washington County.

“He was working on a safe way for bicyclists to get through . . . to Portland. There is not a continuous safe way to do that,” Katharina told The Oregonian.

Besides joining a neighborhood advocacy group, the couple shared many bicycling adventures with Oregon Human Powered Vehicles. Four years ago, the Johnsons biked from Oregon to Montana and back — an experience Katharina remembers as “exciting.”

The specifics regarding Kirke’s death remain unclear. A FedEx truck collided with Kirke, who was riding in the bike lane.

The tragedy brought the question of Oregon bicycling safety to the forefront. Jonathan Maus, the publisher and editor of, questions the safety of the biking location, and Washington County bike lanes in general.

“Their version of bike safety was putting in a white paint stripe and giving people five feet or so of operating space,” Maus told The Oregonian. “It does nothing for safety. It’s just symbolic.”

“Kirke was a man engaged in life and committed to living his to the fullest,” an anonymous mourner posted to PCC’s webpage. “He was a kind man. His passing is a great loss to our community.”

Football team forfeits league title to grieving opponents

Football team forfeits league title to grieving opponents


Following the deadly shooting at Marysville Pilchuck High School on Friday, the football game scheduled for that night was canceled.

Instead of taking the field, the Marysville Pilchuck (M-P) team huddled in the school district headquarters, to mourn both the victims of the attack and the boy responsible for the shooting. The boy, Jaylen Fryberg, had been a member of the M-P freshman football team.

What no one expected was the arrival of members of the Oak Harbor high school football team – the very opponents M-P was scheduled to play that night.

Clad in their purple jerseys, the Oak Harbor players offered hugs and condolences to the mourning team.

“We just wanted to show our respects and show that Oak Harbor cares,” Josiah Welch, a junior running back/defensive back for Oak Harbor, told The Marysville Globe. “They seemed really grateful. They were all happy that we came.”

But the compassion of the Oak Harbor team went beyond a mere show of solidarity.

The team offered to forfeit that night’s game to M-P. This sacrifice gave the M-P team the No. 1 seed for next week’s Wesco 3A crossover games. According to Oak Harbor head coach Jay Turner, the coaches and players were in 100 percent agreement in forfeiting to M-P.

“That’s the most amazing thing I’ve seen,” said Brandon Carson, M-P coach. “That just shows you what kind of people they are. Those guys have showed it tonight just by coming here and coming to the vigil and visiting us at our team meeting. I can’t put into words what it means for not only high school athletics, but for our team to get through this grieving process.”

Oak Harbor’s sacrifice left a lasting impact on the M-P team and community.

“The fact that they drove here from Oak Harbor, it’s not like you’re driving here from Stanwood or from Arlington — it’s not a fifteen-minute drive. It’s a long ways. That was the classiest move I’ve ever seen in football at any level,” said Corbin Ferry, the M-P senior lineman .

From special cheers to spectators donning the M-P school colors of red and white, the games which took place Friday were filled with support for the mourning team.

“The Western Conference athletic directors feel strongly that it is important to help our students with as much sense of normalcy as possible,” said Robert Polk, Everett School District athletic director. “We do not want tragedy to paralyze us in our daily lives. The victims of this tragedy will be honored at each game across the league.”

As the school will be closed for the week, the M-P team’s upcoming practice and competition schedule remains uncertain. Carson is eager for the team to play at the next game, scheduled for Friday, October 31.

“I think it can rally a community together, especially if you can provide a win and give something the community can feel good about,” Carson said. “Just from a grieving process, it’ll help to get back on a normal schedule and routine.”