A short Kabul story for you… (please read after the jump)
First, someone writes a news story about you. (This is the second one, actually–Arlette in The Hague sent me a copy of an English language story written up there–I just don’t know how to post it here…)
Congratulation on both counts, people.
We have now received more than 400 boxes of simple, practical stuff for Afghan kids. Most were distributed as they came in, as you know. Toward the end we were receiving massive amounts all at once thanks to Ramstein Elementary, 86th Operations Group, Operation Endless Hope (from Texas), the amazing Trish from California, the 611th Air Operations Center in Alaska, and so many more.
We needed a plan. A big plan. With the help of US Marine Lt Col Julia (whose picture you will see below) we got permission to do an offsite distribution mission to Aschiana School in Kabul.
Aschiana is an Afghan Non-Government Organization helping children that work in Kabul’s streets and their families. They are poor, even by Afghan standards, and subsist by selling phone cards, washing car windows at intersections with a dirty rag, etc.
From the Aschiana Foundation website
After more than 25 years of war and conflict, there are an estimated 600,000 working street children in Afghanistan. These children are girls and boys between the ages of five and sixteen years old. They make a bare livelihood, working and scavenging on the streets.
Their work often provides the only means of support for their families. They often have only a piece of bread a day and little chance to go to school. Many have lost one or both parents during the many years of conflict in Afghanistan.
Aschiana provides them with hope and a better life. This grassroots program offers them food, healthcare, literacy and vocational training.
Aschiana is an Afghan organization that works in the field to help those kids. The Aschiana Foundation is a United States organization to provide financial assistance to Aschiana for its educational and humanitarian programs that benefit working street children in Afghanistan. In a previous post I said that I’d provide information about a reliable and effective charity so that you can continue your interaction with Afghan kids–Aschiana is it.
Here is your reward for all of that reading–these are some amazing pictures of the distribution mission that Give Me Socks did at Aschiana School. You people made this happen. You put socks into your standard white boxes, taped them up, and this is what happened… (click a picture to view the gallery in presentation mode to really enjoy the pictures–the photographer was amazing)
We have a crate full of boxes that have come in in the last couple of weeks, and we are anticipating Agent X’s boxes any day. Once we collect the stragglers that were mailed near the cut-off date we will schedule another major distribution mission to make sure you are extending your reach to whole new groups of kids.
I just keep looking at those pictures.
I continue to be amazed at what people are doing. Just today we received five excellent boxes from Botelle School in Connecticut. Kim sent the packages–I can only assume that she’s a teacher out there and had her class do this as a project. The coolest thing about it is that we had no idea that was happening–the boxes just showed up. You Soxers are low-key people that let your actions speak for you.
That updates our participant tally to 26 states, 1 district, and 4 countries!
Botelle School in Connecticut
A New Girls’ School in Northern Afghanistan
The school in the picture above is beautiful. It was built by Ayni Education International. Ayni is one of several organizations (including the US Government) that has invested in schools in Afghanistan . The reason is obvious–a successful long-term future for Afghan must include development of their human capital. Literacy rates are very low and, even now, there are wicked attempts to prevent children (particularly girls) from going to school.
Before organizations like Ayni, many Afghan children went to school in structures like these (and, of course, many still do):
Photo is from a BBC article available HERE.
I’m just back from spending a couple of weeks with my family before returning to Afghanistan. Now that I’m back, I have updated the list of received boxes–there was a pile of notes to sort through and I’m sure I’ve made some mistakes in the list.
I will be preparing a major post very soon describing a major Give Me Socks event that we just finished–the big finale!! It was a big deal and you will enjoy the pictures. For now, I just wanted to let you know that:
1- I am back
2- The window for sending more boxes has closed. In a future post, I will provide information for an Afghan charity that shares the “think small” spirit of Give Me Socks. I’m sure there will be some of you that would want that information.
More to follow!
Thanks to Trina from New Paltz, New York (a waaay nicer place than than Old Paltz, as you know) we can add a final state to the big board. All of you who participated are in 25 states, 1 district, and 3 countries.
Just for fun, here is a list of countries who have visited the site to see what you were up to:
And, as ususal, pictures…
A New York ball game
An Afghan ball game
This thing continues to amaze me. About two or three months ago one of the Swedish officers assigned to a different headquarters asked us about Give Me Socks. He thought it was interesting and thought there might be interest in Sweden to participate. Because he was at a different headquarters we didn’t get an update–until now.
He has received about 30 boxes from a bunch of different people and went out on his own distribution missions. We just learned about it today when he brought some of the extra boxes over to our office.
So…Welcome, Sweden, to the Give Me Socks universe. We’re glad to have you (if for no other reason than a project like this one deserves a decent cheerleader team).
We have had remarkable success through the winter–more than 300 boxes arrived from the US, the Netherlands, and Germany. Now the weather is starting to get warmer here in Kabul and the last date for sending boxes is coming quickly.
Things have been a little quiet on our end as we prepare for our final distribution mission–the big finale. So we have been stockpiling the boxes that have been arriving (including Ramstein’s boxes) to take them all to a completely different part of town. It will be a significant distribution mission that helps lots of kids. We will put Agent X’s boxes from the Netherlands into that pile as well. Would would have liked to have done that sooner but a string of awful events made it unwise to move about the city. Just wanted you to have that update.
And speaking of the Netherlands, I’m pasting below some text that was forwarded to me from there by the organizer at Agent X’s school. You may recall, there were some high school students helping guide the socks collection there and some of them wrote down their thoughts about their Give Me Socks experience. They understand exactly what this is all about, and they said it better than I ever could:
Prior to starting this activity, I was not aware of the Socks for Afghanistan project. I remember thinking how unique and original the initiative was and yet still so poignant. It occurred to me that so many organisations and initiatives focus on the larger issues, such as providing food and water or homes for the impoverished people in poorer African nations or the Middle East and yet they miss out on the small things, small pleasures, that we take for granted, such as socks. I felt more like part of this initiative than any other because of this, because I felt like it was just as important to provide those in need with socks and soap. It also made me think of how many pairs of socks I have at home when children in Afghanistan, and obviously elsewhere in the world, are running around barefoot or living with blisters created by their shoes. I hope to see this initiative grow in the future and perhaps take wing in the middle and high school as well.
By getting engaged in this activity, I have to gotten to work with some great people, who are so passionate and dedicated to what they do and to helping others. My supervisor for this activity made this experience into a very engaging project and provided a lot of inspiration to us because she is so passionate for helping others who do not have the same privileges as we do. We were four high school girls who signed up to help out with the project, and we all had to work together to organize and plan how we were going to collect the socks and divide tasks. We also had to work together to be as efficient as possible. Then we had to work with our supervisor to make sure that things were going the way they were supposed to and to make sure that we were doing what was needed. It feels very good to help people, especially children who are not in the same situation as us and who do not have the same opportunities as we do, and by doing what we did we might have increased their chance of actually having a brighter future.
By doing this activity I have engaged with issues of global importance. By helping organizing the sock drive in the elementary school, and also scarfs and mittens and soap in the middle and high school, we are trying to help improve the lives of children in Afghanistan. These children might not have anything and their future is never certain, they never know what might happen to them. I think that by collecting these socks and sending them to Afghanistan, we will be able to help the children. We might not change their lives, but by having socks on their feet their quality of life might improve a little bit and it may make life a little bit easier for them as they might be in a difficult situation. It feels good that we, who are so fortunate to live in the western world where we have so much and so many opportunities, can help these children who are not as fortunate as us.
When the boxes arrive, we scan the return addresses to see if there are any new states there. Today there were! Patsy from Greenville Maine and Jill from Iowa each were the first for represent their states at Give Me Socks.
As we have mentioned, we are preparing for a larger event that will give us access to a whole bunch of new kids. The boxes from Jill and Patsy will be part of that (sure to be) excellent socks-a-pallooza.
A massive amount of boxes arrived from Ramstein Elementary School yesterday. For the first time, the postman grumbled about the number of boxes coming in to Give Me Socks. I pretended to feel bad about it.
We also got some very large boxes from St. Ignatius of Antioch in Pennsylvania (and we are anticipating the boxes from Agent X that will arrive from the Netherlands).
Because of the industrial quantities that are arriving, and anticipating the end-date for this little project that is approaching, we are planning something special. If this were a fireworks show, we are planning the big finale!
For now, look at the pictures of these kids from Ramstein plotting how to annoy the postman at Camp Eggers. Great job Ramstein!!