A mother from Oklahoma helped rescue members of the all-girl robotics team from Afghanistan.
Allyson Reneau previously met the girls at a conference in 2019 and wanted to help them escape.
Reneau told Insider the girls, who landed in Qatar this week, seem “safe, well, and happy.”
A 60-year-old Oklahoma mother who helped several members of an internationally recognized all-girl robotics team from Afghanistan escape the country said they are feeling “so grateful” to be out.
On Tuesday, 10 of the so-called “Afghan Dreamers,” aged 16 to 18, were able to leave Kabul on a commercial flight to Doha, Qatar, after several failed attempts to flee the country.
One of the people who helped them get out was Allyson Reneau, a mother-of-11 from Oklahoma, who first met the girls at a Humans to Mars summit in Washington DC in May 2019.
“They left everything behind to pursue their dreams and to be free and educated,” Reneau told Insider. “They now seem to be safe, well, and happy.”
Reneau, who graduated from Harvard in 2016, said she kept in touch with the team since meeting them at the conference.
“Being a mother of nine biological daughters, I felt immediately drawn to them and I think it was it was mutual,” she said.
The 60-year-old said that for weeks the girls had been texting her about the situation in Afghanistan and that one morning early in August, she woke up with an “overwhelming dreadful feeling that something was really wrong.”
“I somehow felt that they were in great danger. And I couldn’t shake it,” she said. “It was so pronounced that I had to take action.”
For days, Reneau was trying to speak to her senator and other local officials to find a way to get the team out.
But after hitting many roadblocks, she decided to take matters into her own hands and travel to Qatar herself. Shortly before her flight, she contacted an old roommate who lived in Qatar and worked for the embassy.
This friend was able to file all the paperwork, and with the help of the embassy, started the process of getting the girls out of Kabul. Reneau herself decided to stay and help from afar.
When she got the news that some of the girls got out safely earlier this week, Reneau said she “broke down.”
“I got a text from one of the girls that just said: ‘We did it.’ All the emotion from two weeks of work and running into a wall constantly, and burying your feelings, and bearing your feelings for the girls, it just hit me all at once.”
The all-girl Afghan robotics team made headlines back in 2017 when they traveled to Washington DC for an international robotics competition.
They were initially not able to obtain their visas to travel, but an intervention by former President Donald Trump allowed them to fly to DC and compete.
Reneau said that the girls are now figuring out where to go from Qatar but that they’ve already had an “abundance of scholarship offers from incredible universities” in the US.
“For the first time in their life, I really believe they have the freedom to choose and to be the architects of their own destiny and their own future,” she said. “It’s the freeing feeling to me to know that they will be able to go somewhere and get educated wherever they want.”