Story and photo by Sgt. April Campbell ISAF Public Affairs
Marim Zamani, who runs an orphanage in Kabul, received a bit of help from International Security Assistance Force volunteers who donated nearly 1,400 pounds of food as well as much-needed clothes, school supplies and toys, March 30.
KABUL, Afghanistan — For the International Security Assistance Force service members whose day-to-day mission focuses on the more long-term effort of coordinating and partnering with Afghan leaders, finding an opportunity to have a direct and immediate impact with the Afghan people can offer much-needed energy.
A group of American service members from ISAF Headquarters here found just such an opportunity when they traveled to a nearby orphanage, March 30, to donate nearly 1,400 pounds of food as well as clothes, school supplies and toys.
The mission was part of a series of volunteer community relations missions coordinated through the ISAF chaplain’s office. The donations came from a variety of contributors.
“The people here at ISAF headquarters look for ways to help Afghans. They are generous and want to help the Afghan children,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Larry Lovejoy, of Orlando, Fla.
As the ISAF headquarters chaplain, Lovejoy, who is deployed from Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., has personally been on three of the volunteer missions and knows firsthand how much the ISAF service members want to contribute.
“I have a list of people who want to go out and donate,” Lovejoy said. “They find joy in being able to help someone.”
In addition to donations from ISAF personnel, many items were received from halfway around the world in the United States.
While visiting his family on leave, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. David Andino-Aquino spoke to his daughter’s Brownie troop in Daytona Beach, Fla., about what he does here in Afghanistan.
“Knowing my audience was young, I focused largely on what life is like in Afghanistan and how we are trying to help the Afghans improve. When I showed them the photos I had taken here in Kabul, the children noticed the Afghan children did not have many of the things they took for granted in the United States. They took it upon themselves to bring in school supplies, clothes, shoes and toys,” said Andino-Aquino.
After receiving the donations in the mail, Andino-Aquino was able to go with Lovejoy and other ISAF volunteers to the orphanage, where they distributed the items along with a collection of goods donated by ISAF personnel.
“Donating to the orphanage really recharged my batteries,” he said. “This was an opportunity to see and directly help some of those we want most to benefit from our efforts here at ISAF, where my day-to-day mission involves facilitating important meetings for the ISAF commander with senior leaders.”
These efforts did not go unnoticed and were greatly appreciated by orphanage director Marim Zamani. Originally from Takhar province, Zamani moved to New York City nearly 30 years ago during the Soviet-Afghan war and returned to Afghanistan in 2002 to start two orphanages, one in Takhar province and one in Kabul.
“These donations will benefit the children here very much,” Zamani said. “When I put shoes on a small child’s feet and feed her even just one time, that brings me great joy and is very rewarding.”
For Petty Officer 2nd Class Ardis Finley, deployed from Naval Base San Diego, and other members of the ISAF commander’s personnel security detail who coordinated the movement for the volunteer community relation mission, the experience was no less rewarding.
“It was a great experience to be a part of giving directly to the Afghan children and showing them that we really care about their future and wellbeing,” Finley said.
Nurturing the future of the nation’s most innocent seemed to remind the ISAF volunteers how that future correlates to the national outlook.
“Through missions like these, we can show the Afghan children how much we care about them and that they are an important part of the country as a whole,” Andino-Aquino said. “Hopefully it will help to make Afghanistan a place where people want to have their children grow up.”