Julia Bolz was selected as the 2011 World Citizen Award winner. Each year, the Council recognizes an outstanding leader from the State of Washington who has contributed significantly to public understanding of international relations and has promoted community involvement in world affairs. Recipients have been celebrated along with the annual World Educator at large community events designed to inspire others toward becoming a World Citizen. The recipient must have been a resident of Washington State for the duration of the past year and must fulfill one or more of the following criteria: their work has contributed to solving a global problem, and has had a significant impact; they have shown leadership in promoting international understanding in our community; they have provided inspirational international service through extended contributions on a volunteer basis.
Julia Bolz is a nationally-recognized humanitarian and social justice activist, who is dedicated to engaging, educating, and empowering the poor in the developing world. In 1998, she traded a successful law career to help people in the world’s most impoverished regions amend discriminatory laws, procure microloans, establish businesses, and negotiate political challenges. She has travelled to some 70 countries around the world and worked as a volunteer for several dozen nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), government agencies, and businesses to eradicate the worst aspects of hunger and poverty and to protect human rights.
After September 11, 2001, Julia focused on educating girls in Afghanistan. The founder of an NGO called Ayni Education International, Julia and her American implementing partners in Afghanistan built and equipped 25 new schools and repaired over 20 others, serving more than 20,000 students. They also provided schools with wells, desks, textbooks and supplies; developed teacher training centers; and provided vocational, literacy and life-skills trainings, as well as libraries and computer centers.
Uniquely, each school is linked to a community in the United States. Over the years, more than 50,000 Americans across the country have “journeyed” with Julia, including dozens of schools, civic and religious institutions, businesses, and non-profits like National Geographic and Rotary. Julia’s hope is that, through cultural exchanges, educational presentations, and cross-cultural curricula, peoples of diverse religious, economic, and political beliefs and backgrounds would come to know each other and ultimately build bridges of friendship and understanding, cooperation and peace.
Closer to home, Julia partners with RESULTS, one of the country’s most-respected grassroots lobbying organizations, to end the worst aspects of hunger and poverty. She is a powerful voice for those otherwise not heard. During the past decade, she has spoken over 550 times across the country about her experiences in the developing world, global citizenship, and the transformative effects of education. Julia also regularly writes about her experiences, and meets with political decision-makers. Her goal is to see all kids, particularly girls, have an opportunity to attend primary school.
A graduate of Smith College and Northwestern University School of Law, Julia transitioned off the board of Ayni Education International at the end of October to leverage her work. She’s considering writing a book in 2012, as well as engaging in high-level advocacy and policy work on behalf of the 67 million children who are not in primary school.
Julia has been featured on the Hallmark Channel, and she was a recipient of A Fund for Women’s Fabulous Firsts Award for “Women who Led the Way,” Smith College’s Rally Day Award, the Thomas C. Wales Foundation Award for courageous civic engagement, leadership, and passionate citizenship, as well as the University of Washington Women’s Center’s 2011 “Women of Courage” Award.
For more information about RESULTS and the Education for All Act of 2011, see www.results.org. To learn more about Ayni Education International or support its work, see www.aynieducation.org.