News: Plea for Socks provides opportunity to offer aid, build trust, inspire women
KABUL, Afghanistan - As a Department of Defense employee walked from his deployed home at Camp Eggers, Kabul, to the International Security Assistance Forces headquarters, a young Afghan girl said three words that would inspire three months of aid for hundreds of Afghan refugees.
“She asked politely ‘give me socks?’ ” said Marc “Dip” DiPaolo, a DoD civilian with NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan. “When I looked at her feet, on that chilly 35-degree day, I saw that she was wearing something like [canvas] shoes, probably too small, with no shoelaces and no socks. I looked at her friend—she was wearing dirty pink Crocs, also with no socks.”
From that point, Dip reached back to friends and family stateside through his Website-driven foundation “Give Me Socks (www.givemesocks.wordpress.com). In all, the site generated aid from 25 states and three countries tallying nearly 400 boxes of winter garments, hygiene products and school supplies – each given to an Afghan child refugee.
“Afghans are people just like us …, said Dip. “I just wanted to be able hand out some socks and other practical stuff while it was still so cold outside. This is a trifle of a humanitarian effort with trivial results overall. I love it, but in the big scheme of things, it's not even a dot. But this winter, a bunch of kids had gloves and socks, so that's real.”
For Tamana, a 12-year old female Afghan refugee and student at the Kabul Aschiana School – an independent aide foundation dedicated to providing care and education to thousands of displaced Afghan children – the free box allowed her to continue attending school.
“I really hope to get stationary to write and take notes, but we all need clothes and boots the most – it’s what I need to keep coming to school … I want to be a doctor and this school is where I begin learning,” Tamana said through an interpreter.
Give Me Socks also serves as an opportunity for Camp Eggers’ personnel to build relationships and inspire hope in those most affected by the insurgency. According to Abdul Wakim, a community liaison officer for volunteer community relations missions throughout Kabul, opportunities to build trust can be just as critical as providing essential supplies.
“In Afghanistan, everything is built through relationships, trust and teamwork,” he said. “These programs build that trust and allow service members to work shoulder-to-shoulder with Afghan families. I was raised in a refugee camp. I know how these families feel – like the international community has forgotten them. Seeing the service members from all countries come out and support the Afghan children, it allows us all to hope that one day all that has been destroyed will be rebuilt – that we have a future.”
Inspiring a future full of opportunities is a critical goal for Joint Visitor Bureau Personal Security Detail Chief USMC Lt. Col. Julia Hunt and Team Leader MA2 Ashley Hickerson. Both have participated in several volunteer missions for the Give Me Socks foundation. They each noted the importance of showing Afghan women that they can be strong leaders, make a difference and set a positive example.
“It’s important to be a good role model,” said Hickerson, “to be an outstanding individual and show these women that there is strength in our gender, in our numbers and to be positive …
… especially the teenage girls,” added Hunt. “They are staring the rest of their life directly in the face and will most likely be married in no time at all with no other choices made available to them … there is a traditional resistance to Afghan women having a say in their life. It makes me appreciate so much what I’ve been able to do with my life and to have a chance to show these young girls that they can do it too.”
Give Me Socks has completed their final drive for supplies and has officially rolled their sleeves back down as the governing members prepare to return stateside. However, what began as a gesture to provide one small girl with a pair of winter socks turned into an opportunity to help hundreds of refugees, build trust between coalition forces and the Afghan community, and show the younger generation of Afghan women that there is hope within their gender.
“I was looking for a place to educate people back home about Afghanistan,” said Dip, “and to put some events into proper context. The Socks project simply emerged as a good way to do that. Little things mean a lot to people trying to survive and again, the Afghans are people just like you and I – they deserved our help.”
NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan is a coalition of 38 troop-contributing nations charged with assisting the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in generating a capable and sustainable Afghan National Security Force ready to take lead of their country's security by 2014. For more information about NTM-A, visit www.ntm-a.com.
Date Posted:04.21.2012 08:15
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