Profiles

"Buy a scarf, change a life."

Social Entrepreneur and World Ambassador of Peace

"Buy a scarf, change a life.” That’s the tagline of Flying Scarfs—the non-profit social business Josh Carroll ’05 started with three fellow Air Force officers who were deployed to Afghanistan in the summer of 2011 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

“Buy a scarf, change a life.” That’s the tagline of Flying Scarfs—the non-profit social business Josh Carroll ’05 started with three fellow Air Force officers who were deployed to Afghanistan in the summer of 2011 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

During his seven months of service in Afghanistan, Josh realized that “enduring freedom” required more than military presence and foreign aid. Specifically, he saw job creation as a crucial component of sustainable peace and prosperity in Afghanistan. Determined to jumpstart positive change from the bottom up, Josh searched for a way to employ Afghan women because women typically re-invest earned income in their communities through education and health care.

Peace Trade
While walking through a bazaar in the Bagram Air Base, Josh and his comrades came upon beautiful scarves handcrafted by women from villages scattered throughout the Parwan Province. Many of the artisans had lost their husbands to the Taliban and were raising their children as single parents; some had been mutilated by improvised explosive devices and land mines. That’s when the idea for Flying Scarfs crystallized. “Afghan widows are among the most marginalized people in the world. I wanted to help empower these women with an income so they could provide for their families and gain the dignity that goes along with self-sufficiency. I can’t make scarves, but I can help Afghan women access a global marketplace,” explains Josh of the micro-business he launched with his Air Force friends. They funded the start up of Flying Scarfs with their own money. Now, the non-profit is self-sustaining, operating without investors or dependence on charitable donations.

Josh ’s social enterprise that empowers women artisans in Afghanistan has become an organization with a worldwide mission to uncover similar situations in other underdeveloped countries. Today, Flying Scarfs partners with women from Haiti, Kenya, and Afghanistan to sell their hand-woven, embroidered, and beaded scarves and colorful, hand-stitched messenger bags. The non-profit markets its handicrafts through its website flyingscarfs.com and wholesale to fair-trade boutiques. While Josh does not receive any financial compensation for his work with Flying Scarfs, he does receive well-deserved recognition. He received the Presidential Service Award, Air Force Commendation Medal, and the Military Volunteer Service Medal for his contributions to microeconomic development in Afghanistan.

“WE ARE SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS DEDICATED TO MAKING A PE ACEFUL PL ANET WHERE IDEAS FLOURISH AND PEOPLE THRIVE. OUR MISSION IS TO HELP PEOPLE IN UNDER-DEVELOPED COUNTRIES THROUGH ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY, THEREBY ENDING POVERT Y. WITH YOUR HELP, WE CAN MAKE OUR GOALS THE NEW REALITY.”

A Voice for Veterans
In addition to advocating for women living in developing countries, Josh also advocates for U.S. military veterans. Heis a member of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and the co.editor for the Millennial Veteran Project(MVP). The IAVA raises awareness and lobbies for supportive government policy regarding the health, education,and employment of veterans and their families; the MVP provides veterans with a venue to express their perspectives on policies affecting veterans. In a 2013 MVP blog post titled “Empowerment,”Josh expresses his view of the similarities between veterans and entrepreneurs to rally comrades to pursue a new typeof service:

“Despite the uncertainty and inherent ambiguities of warfare, the veteran-entrepreneur sets out and makes his own path, using a scarcity of resources and forward thinking. In this way, these two groups could not be any more similar. Social entrepreneurship is not a spectator sport. Our wealth is not measured in dollars but rather by the impact we can have in a community.”

When not focused on MVP, IAVA, or Flying Scarfs priorities, Josh is busy studying law as a first-year law student at the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America. Somehow, he also finds time to train for marathons, triathlons, and Ironman competitions, competing in memory of U.S. Air Force Officer Rosyln Littman Schulte, killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Josh considers her “the best officer I ever met, a natural leader and a great friend,” and pursues his peace trade to ensure she did not die in vain. Judging from Josh’s accomplishments and accolades, he is not only successfully honoring First Lieutenant Schulte, but all soldiers who have served our country. 

Merrimack Beginnings

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