The Initiative to Educate Afghan Women

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Roz Rustigian

Roz Rustigian is still the chair of “The Initiative To Educate Afghan Women” and the board and supporters continue their efforts to provide a full university education to academically qualified Afghan women who display a real dedication to putting their country on a better footing.  To that end, we are proud to say that Adela Raz (Simmons 2008’) has advanced from chief spokesperson for President Karzai to Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Affairs  under his excellency Ashraf Ghani.  This is but one of the women who have returned to Afghanistan to take part in the ambitious mission of stabilizing the country and providing its citizens with a future of great peace and prosperity.

Do you want to know more about rugs in Afghanistan? Using Search on the top right yields over 80 results on our website.

In order to better serve the future needs of that country, The Initiative is undertaking to reverse engineer – if you will –the selection and application process so that we can match available scholarships with students whose career aspirations are in sync with the professional needs of their country.  Further, we have embarked on a program to provide all of our students with summer jobs and internships in Afghanistan so that employment prospects are awaiting their return after graduation or following their OPT training here in the states.

Weaving (knotting). Photo courtesy of Ariana.
Weaving (knotting). Photo courtesy of Ariana.

This summer our young women worked with Good Weave, Turquoise Mountain, The American University of Afghanistan, The international Rescue Committee, The Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Women for Afghan Women. Much was learned and I would love the opportunity to share more of these stories as the students’ professional journeys unfold.

Without The Initiative, women weave. With The Initiative they make an even greater contribution- ed.

For more about The Initiative please see the article: Women, Afghanistan, the Future.
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Rustigian Rugs was established by V. George Rustigian in 1930 in the midst of the Great Depression. "Rusty" graduated from Brown University in 1928 and continued on to Harvard Law School. The fall of the stock market compelled him to find a way to support himself and his mother. Prior experience in the oriental rug business in New York and New Orleans prepared him to take advantage of the familial contacts his mother had in the industry. The rugs he bought and borrowed from his benefactor, the Michaelian family in New York, formed the core of the Rustigian Rug shop which began in the family home on Benefit Street in Providence.

Business was good. Over the years, Rusty plied his trade in both new and antique carpets. Predictably, the business expanded in scope and for many years Rustigian’s was also a specialty vendor in the sale and installation of wall to wall carpeting. The 1802 Federal style house adapted to these changes: after WWII the basement of the Benefit Street house was excavated by hand so Rusty could have an office proper. The four-car garage became a showroom for rolls of carpet and, ultimately, the building which used to house the family horse (Gertie) was converted into a dry room for the rug cleaning operation. On a summer day, it was not unusual for a passerby to see the house literally draped in customer rugs – drip drying on fences, basking in the sun on the driveway and roof and hanging from specially built steel railings!

Rustigian Rugs flourished for 50 years up until Rusty’s death in May of 1980. That’s when Rosalind Rustigian (Roz to her friends and customers) stepped in and found she was able to maintain relationships with many a customer who remembered Rusty so fondly.

In 1981 Roz bought a former bank building at One Governor Street in Providence where the rug store now resides. By the mid-1980s, the store was modernized, adding a computerized system for operations, inventory control and customer service. For three decades we have maintained complete records of all customer activity. Should a mishap befall a purchased rug, a couple of key strokes calls up all sales history AND a photo. Similarly, any installed goods can be immediately identified for replacement or insurance evaluation.

In January of 1996 Roz attended the National Oriental Rug Market in Atlanta, Georgia. There she watched in astonishment as the CEO of the largest handwoven carpet company in the United States proudly accepted an award for “best in show” in the category of 6 x 9 Machine Made rug for under $149.00. Seismic changes were afoot and Roz realized that the rug business was about to change and change rapidly! On Monday she flew back to Providence and immediately started planning for the addition of a full scale wall-to-wall carpet operation.

In the fall of 1996 the carpet department was started in a bookcase on the first floor – an infant sister of the already robust handmade rug operation. Today, samples are showcased on the entire second floor of One Governor Street and operations are centered in a fully equipped warehouse which also serves as the service department’s in-house cleaning and repair plant.

The store has a full staff of employees (representing about 110 years of experience at Rustigian’s) with at least two teams of expert installers working out of the two locations at any given time. At Rustigian’s, local and global responsibility is emphasized, and the staff is encouraged to participate in local government and local charities. Rustigian Rugs also uses local professionals and vendors, to the extent possible, and keeps a “shop local” mentality in everything they do.