KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Nearly 50 children sat on metal chairs, at metal tables, in a room where the only light shone in through the curtainless windows. Patiently waiting. Outside, members of the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team unloaded boxes upon boxes of treats for the children. From gloves to winter coats, from school supplies to candy, the children sat in anticipation, not knowing what was in store for them.
The children, all boys, live at the Shahid Al Ahad Khan Karzi orphanage in Kandahar. Several of them run around, inside and out, barefoot, not even owning a pair of shoes.
The KPRT, which operates from Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar City, works in partnership with the Kandahar provincial government to facilitate improvements in governance and socioeconomic development, in order to ultimately cultivate a sustainable, stable province.
The boys became antsy in their seats as members of the KPRT began to hand out treats. They sat quietly as they each received a pair of gloves. They patiently accepted school supplies, including paper and crayons.
However, as soon as the boys saw the candy, all bets were off, as their hands grabbed for any piece they could get ahold of. The same went for stuffed animals.
Staff Sgt. Greg Cullison, a native of Page, Ariz., assigned to C. Company, 4th Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas, and attached to the KPRT, pulled security at the orphanage, but also interacted with the children.
“I play with them and try to talk to them,” said Cullison. “I try to show them I know a little Pashtu so hopefully they won’t be scared to talk to me. I’ll take my glasses off and smile at them so they know American soldiers are good.”
Aside from handing out goodies to the boys, the KPRT also took Navy and U.S. contracting engineers to help fix some electrical problems at the orphanage.
“The engineers taped up hot wires that were loose that could electrocute the children and capped off ends of the generator that are no longer in use,” said Sgt. Cody Swank, a native of Tulsa, Okla., assigned to C. Co., 4th BN, 17th IR, 1st BCT, 1st AD, Fort Bliss, Texas, and also attached to the KPRT.
As the KPRT left the orphanage, the children had empty candy wrappers in hand and smiles on their faces.
“We’re trying to win the hearts and minds at a lower level,” said Cullison. “You might be able to make an impact on that one kid’s life, and might change one thing in the future.”
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This work, KPRT gives smiles to orphans, by SSG Kristen Duus, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.