The Noon Rotary Club of Turlock is asking for the community’s help to provide seasonally appropriate clothing for children in Afghanistan. The club’s Afghan Project will collect waterproof footwear, winter clothing, and other items and ship them overseas where they will be distributed to children who would not otherwise have warm winter clothing.
Fin Johnson, coordinator of Turlock Noon Rotary’s Afghan Project, spent a year in Afghanistan and saw firsthand the need for warm, waterproof clothing.
“It’s a common misconception that Afghanistan is all desert. It is not a desert. In Kabul, the capitol, they get driving, nasty snow storms,” Johnson said.
Johnson said that Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan do not have the infrastructure to deal with snow. They do not plow the roads. He said that during his stay he was snowed in for three days and missed a flight out of Kabul. In addition to snow, parts of Afghanistan also get downpours in the spring.
“They get some o f the nastiest rain storms you can imagine,” Johnsons said.
Many roads in the country are dirt, which turns to mud during the rainy season. He also observed that many children had just a pair of sandals, if they had any shoes at all.
“Three seasons of the year these kids are knee high in snow or mud,” Johnson said.
During his trip, Johnson met a group of men and women who were trying to make winter a little warmer for children in Afghanistan. Volunteer Community Relations is a group of active military and civilian volunteers who collect donated clothing and other items and distribute them throughout Afghanistan. On their own time the volunteers pack bags of children’s clothing and toiletries. They leave the relative safety of military bases to bring items to orphanages, schools, and outlying villages; some that do not otherwise have access to aide.
“I think it’s pretty remarkable considering it’s a group of people who normally work six days a week, and they spend their half a Saturday off doing this,” Johnson said.
When he came back to Turlock, Johnson suggested that the Noon Rotary club sponsor a drive to collect items to send to VCR. The club has always had an element of international philanthropy, and they received a matching grant from Rotary International to cover half of the cost of the project.
The biggest need that the Afghan Project hopes to fill is for water proof footwear in children’s sizes. The project’s goal is to collect winter clothing, and bulk lots or a gross of some items. The items will be sent in bulk to Afghanistan, where VCR will pack individual bags to distribute to children.
Afghan Project is accepting any donations, but they are looking specifically for children’s boots, coats, hats, gloves, sweaters and other warm clothing. They would like bulk lots or packages of underwear, T shirts, socks, hygiene items include toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, hair brushes, and any personal care items. Johnson said that VCR can connect with other groups that distribute items like women’s hygiene products, and any donations will be welcomed.
“There are a lot of groups we can send items to. There isn’t anything that they don’t have need for,” Johnson said.
Wayne Turnbow, a member of the Turlock Noon Rotary Club, said that the group would prefer to collect new items. The collected items will be shipped in flat rate UPS boxes as they come in.
“Having too many items to ship and needing to purchase more boxes would be a great problem to have,” Turnbow said.
In addition to the children’s warm clothing drive, The Noon Rotary Club of Turlock is also collecting school supplies, paper, and daycare items for another organization in Afghanistan. Johnson visited the Ministry of Interior police center during his time in Afghanistan, and saw a daycare center for on-duty police officers’ children. The center looked after 75 to 100 children daily, and was not funded. The Rotary Club is collecting toys, coloring books, school supplies, backpacks, and other day-care items for the center.
“Paper is also a scare resource there. I saw generals use old date books from 1990 to take notes. Reams of paper would go a long way,” Johnson said.
The Noon Rotary Club of Turlock will collect donations for Afghan Project from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday at Larsa Hall, 2107 E. Monte Vista Avenue. For more information about Project Afghan visit turlock.org/Pages/afghan.
To contact Andrea Goodwin e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.