Mission: Completed

Operation Desert Blossom is Complete!

Is it too late to send items? Unfortunately, yes. But there are people in need within every community, and many other good causes would gladly accept your donations.

Thank you all for reading and donating. It has been a tremendous blessing to me and great help to the people here. God bless!


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Friends of Antics, and the Antics of Friends

A big "Thank You" to my friends in Logan, UT for sending so many warm winter clothes and hygiene items for our clinic.  You may have heard on the news that this winter is Afghanistan's coldest in seven years.  The clinic doctor tells me he still sees cases of frostbite most days the clinic is open.  There will be less cases thanks to The Antics, a comedy troupe and their generous friends including the Crockett Ward and many others.

We hand out treats to the children while their parents learn basic hygiene techniques.

When I walk over to the female side of the clinic, the women usually cover their faces.  But even through their veils and burkas they express their thanks for the toys and clothing.

Here is Melissa, one of our nurses.  Her knees, like mine, have not fully adapted to the Afghan way of sitting in a squat when there is no bench nearby.  But she has learned to "do as the Romans do" when taking blood pressures and handing out clothes.  The Afghans usually get a chuckle out of how quickly foreigners have to stand up to stretch our legs.

Thanks again Antics and friends!  Your donations make a huge difference!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Attack of the Sock Monsters!

 One of my favorite things about this project has been hearing stories about parents getting their kids involved in giving.  I love getting little notes like this one- I pin them up in the shed that holds the donations.  They are a nice break from the wordy military documents I have to read!

 Abbi from Washington

Thanks, Abbi! I loaded the hats, gloves, coloring books and crayons you sent, along with your sock monsters, onto an Army truck today.  They will go to children who live in homes that probably don't have electricity or running water.  They will be warmer and happier soon!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Polish Rural Outreach Mission

Forward Operating Base Ghazni is a NATO base administered by Poland's military, with American forces like myself as guests. I was approached by of their civil affairs officers who asked if I had anything to donate towards a humantarian mission to smaller villages. I think she was expecting one or two boxes. I gave her 32, many of them from NY Super Saturday and Santa Rosa Elementary school as well as many others. I asked her to bring back some photos of the Polish soldiers handing out donations to the children.
Sometimes the coats fit just right...

...and sometimes they left a little growing room.  Either way, it's better than being cold!

To all those who sent socks: THANK YOU!
The same goes for all those who sent shoes.  It is 12 degrees F and they are walking in the snow wearing slippers.

Would you let your son go out in the snow dressed like this?  Let’s get a coat on  him STAT!
Much better!

I recognize every single piece of clothing on that little girl as donations from you.  I hate to think what was (not) keeping her warm before

The children also got backpacks with coloring books and crayons (thank you Miss Hillary)
Donations are "like a box of chocolates": sometimes you get a stuffed red panda...

...and sometimes you get a rooster in a suit

“My sister dragged me here…whatever it is, I didn’t do it!”
Thanks for the smiles, ODB donors!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

ODB By The Numbers

As I totalled up the donations from 2011, I was amazed at the generosity all of you have shown in sending much needed items to total strangers you will never meet.  I can hardly believe these numbers, but they are accurate:

Shoes (pairs): 180
Socks (pairs): 350
Tops (T-shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts): 356
Bottoms (skirts, pants, jeans): 198
Underwear (adult and children): 332
Baby clothes: 127
Diapers: 158
Coats: 61
Hats :178
Gloves (pairs): 162
Blankets: 55
Toothpaste: 182
Toothbrushes: 291
Soap/Shampoo: 383
Sanitary pads: 564
Other Hygiene (washcloths, razors, lotion, diaper ointment): 539
School Supplies (coloring books, crayons, scissors, pencils): 170
Toys: 185
Treats: 340

Donors: 26 households in 10 states

Thank you again to everyone who donated! 
Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

NY Super Saturday!

Last weekend I got a very LARGE shipment of donations from a church group in New York.  They held a Super Saturday event where youth and leaders from multiple congregations united their efforts to collect, knit, sew, and package literally hundreds of items for the people here.

  Knitting hats is serious business for these teenagers, as you can see...

  Don't let anyone tell you quilting isn't manly, especially if you're doing it to meet girls.

This will keep someone warm through the winter!

This must not have been the first time this group has done something like this, because they had the process down cold:  Assembly lines, work stations, numbered boxes with item quantities, packed neatly and tightly.  UPS has nothing on these guys!

Next time you despair about the young generation, remember that there are young people like these who will do things that will amaze us.

Thanks guys!  I'm waiting for the last of your boxes to arrive this weekend.  After that, they will go to the clinic here on base, and the Women's Shelter and Orphanage in Ghazni.  Happy New Year! ("Remember who you are!" HA!)


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Choor! Choor!

As we toted the boxes into the clinic today, the kids started chanting, "choor! choor!" as we filed past.  Once we got inside, I asked the doctor what this meant.  Apparently, when you are ready for the situation to turn into complete mayhem, this is the word you use, since it means something like "free-for-all," "take as much as you like," or "the pinata has just burst open, every mob the candy while stepping over the people in front of you!"  So the kids were trying to get us to say this word so they could take the whole bag of lollipops.

This is Melissa trying to keep people under control while handing out candy.  Even the older men were jockeying for position to catch the pieces that fell to the ground.

Most of the donations we brought today were for winter (it was 19 F last night): lotion for cracked skin, hats, gloves, sweaters, coats, and shoes.  We can never keep shoes, everyone needs them.  If they are two sizes too big or too small, they will a move like Cinderella's sister: cram their foot in, show you it fits, and take the shoes.  Dr. Arfan is trying on some shoes also:

This mother brought her boys with her and asked if they could pick out a pair of shoes. 

 The older boy got a pair of very nice Nikes sent by Leslie and Jim from NY.  The younger one got some warm hiking boots.  They were very grateful, since most people cannot afford quality shoes- they usually wear what we would refer to as slippers or house shoes.   They were so grateful even Mom posed for a "thumbs up" -not something you would usually see an Afghan woman do.

Thanks for the donations, everyone. We'll make this last month of ODB really count!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Overheard in an Afghan Clinic

As the Afghan medical system progresses towards self-sustainment, the rules have changed for me a little.  I'm not allowed to treat patients as their doctor, but I can help in other ways.  So on Saturday I asked the Afghan doctor what I could do to help him get through all 60 patients he had to see that day.  He asked me to prepare little bags of common medications for him. 

There is no pharmacy in the clinic. Medications are kept on the shelves in his 4ft x 8ft office, which you can see in the background.  I took this picture to show that some Afghans have red hair, fair skin, and blue eyes, like this little boy and his sister enjoying lollipops.

As I'm preparing the packets, two young girls are waiting for their brother to be seen by the doctor.  They are watching me curiously, so I smile at them at say "Salaam."  A combination of Afghan culture and my being very manly and intimidating causes them to look away shyly.  I don't need a translator to understand their conversation:

Why is that American dude wearing a red cross and a gun at the same time? 
Shh!  Don't stare at him, it's rude.
I wasn't staring...[looks away, ten seconds later]
I said stop staring!
I wasn't!  [ten seconds later] "What?  I was looking at...something else..."

  I would guess they are about 8 and 12 years old.  Sometime around age 12 or so, Afghan girls stop playing with boys and begin covering their faces around men.

The bench in the background was being used by an American humanitarian worker to interview patients in the clinic to get an idea of what the local medical needs are.    I can't help but listen to the translator's words, since we are all in one small room.  Here is an example of one of the interviews, I thought you all might be interested in the answers as well:

How old are you?
-Probably more than 30 (most Afghans do not track their age into adulthood)

Why did you come to the clinic today?
-To get medicine for my child.  He has a fever and is coughing.

If you couldn't come here, where would you go?
-I couldn't afford to get medicines any place else.  They are free here, so I come here.

Isn't there some way to get medicines?
-If I had to, I would talk to all the women in my village and ask them to share their medicine with me (this is good-hearted but problematic from a medical standpoint.  Painkillers, antibiotics, antacids are all just "American medicines" that are often handed out to one's circle of friends upon stepping out of the clinic)

Did your children get vaccines?
-Yes.  At a free clinic like this one.  (This answer made me happy.  I know some of you anti-vaccinators are disappointed :) )

Do you work outside of the home?
-Yes, when there is work I do as much as I can to earn money.  I clean houses, wash dishes, and prepare food as a day laborer.  But it is rare to be able to find work.

Did you go to school?
-No, there are no schools for the Hazari.  (Hazari are an ethnic tribe, traditionally farmers anand day laborers, on the fringes of civilization because of their Asian ancestry.  My interpreter, who is Tajik, later told me, "you will never find in all of Afghanistan a Hazari begging for handouts.  They are hard, hard workers and always find jobs)

What do you usually eat for food?
-Whatever we can.  If there are beans, we eat beans.  Sometimes there are potatoes or squash.  We eat whatever is there at the time.

How old were you when you got married?
-About 15

How old were you when you had your first child?
-The same

Did you and you husband plan the children, or did they just come naturally? (This struck both me and the interpreter as a silly question.  I assumed she was required to follow a standard questionnaire)
-Of course they just came naturally

How many children did you give birth to?

Did any of them die because of sickness?
(I was taught in my "cultural awareness" class that Afghan parents are accustomed to losing children and it doesn't bother them as much as it bothers us.  As a parent of four children, one whom was born too early to survive, this struck me as garbage the moment I heard it.  I was also taught that I should keep my distance from women and not interact with them directly.  Well, I guess that's two things I disagree with.  I knew it would be wrong to put my arm around her, but I had to at least give her a tissue.)
-Yes, I lost two children. [sobbing].  Please don't ask me their ages.

From here, the interviewer could tell it was time to stop the survey, and the conversation turned to lighter things like her beautifully embroidered housecoat and the handsomeness of her sons.  Soon her turn to see the doctor arrived, and her sons got medicines and lollipops as well as some winter clothes.  So when people ask me, "don't you worry about people coming to the clinic just so they can get free stuff and sell it!?"  I think of people like this lady, just doing what she can to take care of her sons.  I know she loves them as much as I love mine.

  Thanks for all of the donations, we gave away a lot today.