PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. troops from the Parwan Provincial Reconstruction Team at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, delivered a truck load of winter coats and school supplies to an orphanage, April 11, on behalf of the citizens of Marlboro, N.J.
“It shows that the United States is here to support the people of Afghanistan and those who need it, most like these orphans…” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jeff Cantor, team chief of the special issues team, Stability Operations, Combined Joint Task Force-82, who helped organize the mission. “It means a lot for partnership, it means a lot to these kids, certainly.”
Like many humanitarian assistance missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the April 11 school drop mission reflected “ground up” initiative rather than “top down” policy.
Cantor became interested in helping orphanage children during a previous civil affairs mission in neighboring Bamyan province.
Wanting to alleviate the poverty there, Cantor contacted friends in his hometown of Marlboro, N.J. and found the community receptive to his request for assistance.
Deputy Mayor of Marlboro Larry Rosen organized a Teen Advisory Committee to spearhead the drive to collect coats for the children and collected about 400. Marlboro Elementary School also contributed to the efforts by donating school supplies and toys. Once the supplies had been collected, Congressman Rush Holt arranged to have them shipped to Afghanistan, so that the Marlboro Teen Advisory Committee didn’t have to pay for it.
Circumstances did not permit the PRT to distribute the supplies to the orphanage Cantor had visited in Bamyan, so instead the supplies were given to the Charikar orphanage, the only state-run orphanage in Parwan province. It is home to about 130 children, almost all of them boys. At the Charikar orphanage they are trained on vocational skills until they are old enough to make a living.
Ata Mohammad, the director of the Charikar orphanage, said although the orphanage receives state support from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, it remains dependent on international support for the time being.
“The government of Afghanistan helps when they can, but these children need ongoing support and that is something government can’t do,” Mohammad said. “That is why this is really important, that you guys help us out.”
Once the humanitarian aid material had arrived in Afghanistan, Parwan PRT volunteered for the mission to distribute the aid to the Charikar orphanage said U.S. Navy Commander Kyle Higgins, the commanding officer of Parwan PRT.
Parwan PRT is a diverse team of more than 90 people, comprising members from Army, Navy and Air Force, Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development. Their broad goal is to help foster governance and development in Parwan province, Higgins said.
“This mission is one of the elements that’s part of the PRT’s overall mission of bringing the government and people of Afghanistan together, both for governance and development progress,” Higgins said.
He added that the presence of the provincial director of social affairs and the director of the orphanage to assist in distributing the humanitarian aid was an example of “building capacity for the government of Afghanistan to be able to do these types of humanitarian missions themselves.”
“I just can’t thank Marlboro Teen Advisory Committee enough,” Cantor said. “I’d really like to thank Congressman Rush Holt, the major of Marlboro, [Jonathan] Hornick, the town council who helped this process out…. A much needed thanks goes out to all of them.”
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