Kabul, AFGHANISTAN – Three military vehicles rolled out of the International Security Assistance Forces compound on Friday, 18 July 2014, packed with more than 800 pounds of clothing, toys, and school supplies for Afghan children.
And stuffed in the pockets of several ISAF troops, they carried lollipops for the children.
The humanitarian items will be shared by PARSA, an organization serving the disadvantaged in Afghanistan through a wide range of programs, and Shamsa Village, an orphanage housing 52 children in a residential setting.
At the PARSA camp within a Red Crescent compound in Western Kabul, residents, teenage Afghan Scouts, and a dozen ISAF members formed a bucket brigade, transferring goods from two SUVs to a storage shed, laughing as they pitched bulging bags down the line – a sack of stuffed animals, baby clothes, shoes, a box of notebooks, blankets – under the hot Afghan sun.
"I loved being able to help the most innocent victims of the long war here,” said Dr. Catherine Warner, Director of ISAF’s Telecommunications Advisory Team, who organized the delivery. "Living and working at ISAF, we are limited in how much we can personally help the Afghans, but if we make a difference to even a few children, it’s worth the effort.”
Soon a group of 10 young children appeared, shy at first, then excitedly gathering around Lt. Col. Bridget Reynolds, who passed out lollipops. Although it was during Ramadhan, children typically do not fast.
"It felt fantastic to get out of ISAF, see the kids, and take [needed items] directly to the organizations that support them,” Reynolds said. "We got to meet the organizers and see their dedication.”
After helping to stack the donated goods, PARSA project manager J. Reese Hume said the gifts will be helpful for both his organization and the orphanage they partner with, Shamsa Village. Hume, who is from the United States, has been living in Afghanistan for six years.
"I don’t make nearly as much money as I could in the states,” he said, "but I’ve never enjoyed a job as much.”
What is the most fulfilling part to Hume? "Spending time with the kids,” he said, some of whom come from "a horrible background” including opium villages, households where the children are tortured, sold for their bodies, or sold as slave labor.
After filling the storage area with donated goods, some Afghan Scouts gave a demonstration in knot-tying.
The unloading complete, ISAF members passed out more candy, spoke with the scouts, played with four Labrador Retriever puppies, and visited the Afghan Garden Kitchen, which is staffed by Afghan hospitality-industry trainees, another aspect of PARSA’s program, which seeks to help older orphans and impoverished adults transition into the work force.
After an hour, it was time to head back. As the ISAF members prepared to leave, they shook hands with the older children, receiving a smile and hearty "Thank you” from each child.
Story by Lt.Col. James Bishop
For more information on the International Security Assistance Force, please visit their website at www.isaf.nato.int