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Posts Tagged ‘volunteer’

Afghan children wait for donations*

An Afghan skater waits for the future**

There are a TON of great charities supporting the people of Afghanistan…I’m hopeful I’ll get many more suggestions.  But for now, these are my favorites:

Afghans4Tomorow – An organization working to rebuild Afghanistan, through health, education, and agriculture projects…such as a training program to make fuel briquettes (as an alternative to increasingly scarce wood) and the first Science Fair in Afghan history!

OLPC Afghanistan – The One Laptop Per Child vision…to create educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power computer…is compelling.  The OLPC hardware and approach are less so.  But for now, OLPC seems a good way to move the children of Afghanistan into the digital age.

Pakistan Flood Relief – Pakistan is the home of Al-Qaeda, a strong Taliban movement, nuclear weapons, and now, the largest humanitarian crisis the international community has ever faced.  Much of the country remains flooded, but even when the waters recede, disease, and hunger remain…along with radical insurgents, who are only too happy to take advantage of the chaos.  Support to Pakistani children today–clean water, safe sanitation, vaccinations, protection from violence, and nutrition–will save Afghan lives in the future.  And likely, American lives as well.

Skateistan – The world’s first co-educational skateboarding school, and arguably the coolest charity in the universe.  Their video, Skateistan: To Live and Skate Kabul, is a great intro…you’ll understand why it earned “Best Documentary” and “Best Photography” awards at the LA Skate Film Festival last month.

Turquoise Mountain – An organization dedicated to regenerating historic urban areas in Afghanistan and renewing traditional Afghan arts and architecture.  Interestingly, it was established by Rory Stewart, Member of the British Parliament and author of my favorite book about Afghanistan, The Places In Between.

Women of Hope Project – Setting women free from poverty and oppression is a TALL order in Afghanistan, but Women of Hope is making progress.  Their embroidery project, for example, gives women the opportunity to sell their embroidered goods at Coalition bazaars throughout Kabul.  The income, though meager, means their children can attend school instead of having to work.

Bottom line:  Charitable organizations are making a difference in Afghanistan.  You can help.

* Photo by an unknown NTM-A volunteer

** Photo by Uggi Kaldan, at Reklamebilleder

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Volunteer community relations mission

Unloading clothes and toys for a volunteer community relations (VCR) mission*

VCR football

Playing soccer (or football, to the rest of the Coalition) on a VCR mission*

One of the most important things we do is volunteer community relations, or VCR, missions.  Led by NTM-A chaplains from Camp Eggers, volunteers distribute clothes and toys to places like schools, orphanages and medical centers in Kabul and surrounding areas.  During the run-up to the Presidential Elections last year, the security situation in Kabul was the worst it’s been during my tour.  Many days, roads were ‘black’, meaning we could only travel on them for absolutely mission-critical activities, and even then, only with the permission of our most senior officers.  But even on those days, the VCR missions went on…the Command clearly demonstrated that VCR missions are a vital part of what we’re trying to accomplish here in Afghanistan.  And that makes sense:  VCR missions provide hope to Afghans that have none, and as the Afghans would say,

The world lives on hope.

In general, VCR missions take place once week.  Unfortunately, because of the security and transportation challenges, only a handful of people can go on the actual mission.  So the chaplains select randomly from the list of people who help out at the ‘VCR sort’.  This first part is truly a sight to behold: Scores of military and civilian volunteers putting order to the massive chaos of items donated by individuals and charities from all over the world.   It starts with a human chain, passing hundreds of boxes from the VCR storage area to a nearby open space.  The volunteers then sort the boxes into smaller piles, organizing them by type: clothing for infants, boys, girls, men, and women; toys; blankets; jackets; winter shoes; normal shoes; and so on.  Then it’s almost like Halloween:  A non-stop line of people with bags, stopping at houses, and receiving treats.  Except in this case it’s a line of volunteers with bags, stopping at each small pile, and receiving donated items from that station.  By the time a volunteer has looped all the way around the sort area, his or her bag is jam-packed with a complete mix of donated goods…one family’s worth of stuff.  A quick stop to tie off the bag and pick up another, then it’s back for another round.  The whole thing happens VERY quickly and with a very little formal organization…almost like a bunch of ants taking on a task that’s WAY too big as individuals but easy as a swarm.  Which is really the whole idea of the International Community’s work in Afghanistan…

Bottom line:  VCR missions change lives…both the volunteer’s and the recipient’s.

* USAF photos by SSgt Larry E. Reid, from Defense Imagery

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