News: Iowans donate to Afghan orphanage
PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Off the beaten path, down a few dusty roads in the city of Charikaar, Afghanistan, is a small orphanage. The compound is worn with broken windows and bare mattresses. It is filled with young children who have next to nothing. But thanks to an Iowa community, these children will have a few basic necessities that many Americans take for granted.
Soldiers of Headquarters and Headquarters Troop and Troop C, both with 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Redhorse, visited the orphanage in Charikaar May 12 to hand out a small trailer full of goods. The soldiers deployed with the Iowa National Guard’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, received boxes upon boxes of necessities from a school in Sioux City, Iowa.
U.S. Army Sgt. Ryan Downs, a cavalry scout from Sioux City, Iowa, with HHT, said his mother, Christine Poeckes, initiated a shoe drive at West Middle School where she works as an 8th grade English teacher. He said it all started when he was deployed to Iraq and continued five years later here in Afghanistan.
Downs said while deployed to Iraq in 2006, his convoy drove by an orphanage, and he felt he needed to do something for them.
“I e-mailed [my mother] and said, ‘Hey, we want to do something.’ So, she started collecting clothes and shoes,” he said. “And then when we got here, she just said, ‘Hey, do you guys want me to collect stuff again?’”
Because Downs works in the squadron’s tactical operations center, he didn’t have the ability to visit the locals, so he relied on other elements of the squadron for help.
A friend of Downs, who deployed with him to Iraq and helped deliver much need supplies to an orphanage in Iraq, helped get the donations to the kids in Afghanistan as well.
“I have two kids at home and both of them are well off. I kind of wanted to do the same for a bunch of other little kids here, and take care of them. Provide for them, I guess,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Tom Peck, a cavalry scout from Sioux City, Iowa, with HHT’s personal security detachment which goes on regular trips into the Afghan communities. “So, [Downs] and I got together, his mom worked again with the kids at West Middle and got a bunch of shoes sent to us.”
The students helped in a big way. Poeckes said her academic mentoring class needed to select a service learning project for the school year to which many students suggested helping needy children. Having donated to the orphanage in Iraq, Poeckes suggested they help raise donations for the kids of Afghanistan.
Poeckes said one of her students came in one day with a clipping from a newspaper that showed two little Afghan girls watching U.S. soldiers go by ... the little girls had no shoes.
“The students came up with different ways to collect donations,” she explained. “They completed public service announcements, posters, and public speaking appearances asking for help in collecting. The response was overwhelming.”
She said they received more than 300 pairs of shoes in all sizes and varieties along with some socks and various other items.
“We had to cut off collecting in order to find ways to ship them which cost $594 to ship all of those shoes,” Poeckes said. “We had some fundraisers and donations from other school activities and sent them off.”
Once Downs received all of the packages, they set out to Charikaar. Troop C maintained security while soldiers of HHT’s PSD distributed the donations.
Downs, Peck and others organized the children in a line to distribute the treats and other goods while the interpreters helped the children fit shoes. After a while, the courtyard was bustling with movement and excitement.
“I think the drop went good,” Downs said of the visit to the orphanage. “I mean, kids are kids, right? They looked happy. They looked a little sceptical at first ... I don’t know if it’s going to change anything, but those kids have shoes now ... and I’m glad we did it.”
“I think the kids had a great time with it,” said Peck. “I know we had a great time with it as well.”
“You can only help so many,” he said. But, thanks to the kids of West Middle School’s efforts, and Downs’ mother, who coordinated the shipping, he continued, the kids of the Charikaar orphanage now have shoes that fit and the U.S. soldiers are able to continue to build trust with the people of Afghanistan.
Date Posted:05.16.2011 16:45
Location:PARWAN PROVINCE, AF
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