Mother of 11 reveals how she rescued 10 girls on Afghanistan’s robotics team amid Taliban takeover – after reaching out to an old roommate who works at the US Embassy in Qatar
- Allyson Reneau, 60, from Oklahoma, met the group of girls, who are ages 16 to 18, at Explore Mars’ annual Humans to Mars Conference in 2019
- The mom ‘immediately connected’ with the group of girls and has kept in touch with them over the years
- Reneau, who has nine daughters of her own, knew she had to help the girls when she heard reports of the Taliban seizing power in Afghanistan
- She reached out to an old roommate who works at the US Embassy in Qatar
- After two weeks, the girls were flown to a secure location where they will be able to pursue a higher education
- The Harvard graduate is now working on rescuing 25 more girls and their mentors from Afghanistan
A mother of 11 has revealed how she rescued ten girls on Afghanistan’s robotics team after reports of a Taliban takeover prompted fears over their safety.
Allyson Reneau, 60, from Oklahoma, was on the board of directors for Explore Mars when the organization flew the Afghan Girls Robotic Team to its annual Humans to Mars Conference in 2019.
Reneau, who graduated from Harvard in 2016 with a master’s degree in international relations and U.S. space policy, told Today that she ‘immediately connected’ with the group of girls – who are ages 16 to 18 – and has kept touch with them over the years.
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Hero: Allyson Reneau, 60, from Oklahoma, rescued 10 girls from Afghan Girls Robotic Team after hearing reports of a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan
Bond: Reneau met the group of girls, who are ages 16 to 18, at Explore Mars’ annual Humans to Mars Conference in 2019 and has stayed in touch with them over the years
On the night of August 3, she found herself unable to sleep in her Oklahoma City after learning about what was happening on the other side of the world.
‘I didn’t know where to start but I couldn’t shake it. I said to myself “What do I have in my hand? Where can I start?” I felt a little helpless,’ she told Today.
Reneau made use of her extensive network and called Senator Jim Inhofe ‘because he is the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee’.
The senator put her in touch with the military liaison for the Senate, but it was immediately apparent that he was ‘overwhelmed with the need to help our American citizens’.
When ‘that lead went cold,’ Reneau debated flying to Qatar herself.
‘I decided that Monday, I’m just going to fly to Qatar – like a leap of faith – and see what I can do,’ she told Today. ‘Sometimes action just opens doors, [but] I was going alone, and I’m thinking, “Do I even know anyone in Qatar?”‘
Reneau then remembered her former roommate in Washington, D.C. worked in the U.S. Embassy in Qatar. She made a ‘Hail Mary’ call to her friend before boarding a flight, hoping she could help.
Her former roommate wrote up a request and spent all night at the embassy preparing the necessary paperwork. Meanwhile, Reneau got all of the girls’ passports together.
They faced a number of obstacles, including the unrest in Kabul.
Reneau would work with the embassy at night after working all day long, which she admitted was ‘exhausting.’
Celebration: Reneau has nine daughters of her own, and she was filled with emotion when she learned the girls were safe
Devoted: The Harvard graduate is now working on rescuing 25 more girls and their mentors from Afghanistan. The Afghan Girls Robotics Team is pictured in Washington, D.C. in 2017
‘It’s [a] very narrow window of opportunity,’ she said of rescuing the girls. ‘I knew that if I didn’t run through that door now – it’s now or never. Sometimes you only get one chance.’
After two weeks of work with the US Embassy in Qatar and a canceled flight, the ten girls were successfully ‘on the US military side [of the airport]’ where they were protected from the Taliban.
‘All the emotion, two weeks of work for them, it hit me all at once,’ said Reneau, who was hesitant to celebrate until she got a text saying the girls were airborne.
Today reported that the girls were flown to a secure location where they will be able safe to pursue a higher education.
Reneau and a team in the Middle East are still working to help 25 additional girls from the robotics team and their mentors leave Afghanistan.
Impressive: Reneau (pictured with physicist and Harvard professor Avi Loeb) first made headlines in 2011 when she enrolled in Harvard University at age 50 to get her master’s degree
Impressive: Reneau’s Harvard thesis on the United States Space Policy has won awards and has been repeatedly published. She is pictured with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
This is not the first obstacle Reneau has overcome in her life.
She has done it all – including owning a gymnastics studio and graduating from NASA’s International Space University.
Reneau first made headlines in 2011 when she returned to college 30 years after she dropped out to raise her 11 children.
She enrolled in Harvard University at 50 years old and commuted over 3,000 miles per week for three years to get her master’s degree in international business relations.
Before graduating in May 2016, she studied piano performance at Julliard, the famous private performing arts conservatory in New York City.
Reneau’s Harvard thesis on the United States Space Policy has won awards and has been repeatedly published. She was nominated as the 2019 Harvard Emerging Leader of the Year.
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