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News | May 27, 2008

'Operation CARE' helps Afghan children

By Pvt. Tamara Gabbard , CJTF-101

Afghan children from a school in Bagram show off some of the shoes that they recieved during a visit from volunteer service members with Operation CARE.
Afghan children from a school in Bagram show off some of the shoes that they recieved during a visit from volunteer service members with Operation CARE.

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (May 28, 2008)  – Service members here care for the future of a free and democratic Afghanistan, and a peaceful and nurturing environment for Afghan children, by distributing donated items to local youth.

Operation CARE, a BAF-based humanitarian effort, was created in May 2006 and strives to "win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people – one child at a time."

Three times a week, volunteers sort and distribute numerous items, donated from all over the U.S. and parts of Europe, to Afghan youth.

“The volunteers give a lot of their free time,” said Navy Lt. Sara A. O’Neil, Judge Advocate General officer and Operation CARE’s president. “Giving their time to this organization is a very selfless thing.”

Common donations include clothing, candy, toys, shoes and school supplies. According to O’Neil, the donations have impacted people’s lives.

“It’s amazing when you see the reactions of the kids,” she said. “They really grab onto the gifts and smile and seem to be so happy with all they have been given.”

In addition to distributing goods to the people of Afghanistan, the operation has extended its outreach to support service members stationed at forward operation bases in remote areas by providing them with comfort items and amenities, which are not always readily available in isolated areas.

Highly inconvenient and irregularly scheduled flights used to be the only means of getting supplies to these areas. Now, a travelling chaplain delivers 10 to 15 boxes per week.

Capt. Anthony S. Kazarnowicz, known by many as "Father K," began taking items to service members when he would go on missions to such areas.

The service members receiving Father K’s boxes have sometimes not been in contact with anyone from the outside for long periods of time, said O’Neil. Many times they do not even have post exchanges, she said.

“In bringing packages to the service members, we show them that we care very much for them,” said Kazarnowicz. “We do not want them to be without any of the basic necessities that we ourselves have.”

The success of the program hinges on dedicated men and women, who work behind the scenes to ensure its success, said Kazarnowicz.

“To those who prepare and send packages, I say thank you very much,” continued Kazarnowicz. “Even more important than the contents of the boxes is the awareness that someone back in the states took the time to care.”

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