This was our first foray into an IDP camp (Internally Displaced Persons) to hand out supplies.
These people were refugees from the fighting to the south. They were fleeing from Taliban fighters who would intimidate, steal and kill indescrimately amongst the populace. The camp they were living in was next to or more accurately put, in a garbage dump. The smell was rather strong. The filth of the debris was everywhere.
The tents were shabby, makeshift things hardly worth noticing except for the fact that you knew they were "home" for 87 families and that this was better than where they were coming from.
We had been working toward a trip into the community since I arrived. It took three months for all of the pieces to fall into place. We worked with an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) to make it happen. The supplies are the result of people sending things to service member that in turn hand off some of these items to the chapel. The NGO does the work of scouting into the community to find locations that are truly in need. They also help us to organize the supplies into meaningful and appropriate packages for these families. We were not able to bring any where as near as many people as we would like, but this was dictated by the need for security and to keep our time "on the ground" to a minimum.
The kids were very dirty, always a bit hungry and very much in need of true security. We could not give them any of these, but we were able to give some clothing, shoes and some school supplies.
The adults walked in a daze that seemed as if they were on the edge of despair. One might ask why they continue to live in these conditions. I would love to wax eloquent on the subject, but that is for another time.
The men were dressed in mostly traditional clothing. As for the women, some just wore dresses, others had their faces covered, still others wore the full birka. It was quite an interesting span of choices.
One of the fun items we passed out was candy. You know the kids were not sure waht it was although they did not mind taking it. Our NGO friend opened one lollipop and put it into the mouth of one of the kids. There was a little bit of resistance and then it was like a light bulb lit up behind the eyes and a huge smile spread from ear to ear. It was fun to see. Now for all of you who think we are contributing to tooth decay, yes we are, but only to a minor extent when you consider that this will probably be the only candy any of these kids will have for months on end. All in all, we are not too concerned about this issue.
Our public affairs folks came along for the trip as well. I had the fun of being wired for sound during the entire show. Quite a few times our videographer would stop me and ask questions as he tried to capture everything that was happening. The video should appear on Youtube and perhaps on an evening news station somewhere - maybe AFN news back home. The photographer will be posting photos and writing an article as well.
Kudoes go to my Chaplain Assistant, SSgt Brad. He was a great help in setting things up and keeping things orderly at the distribution site. Kudoes also go to our NGO folks who organized all of the supplies. Huge kudoes go to the UK contingent who organized all of our force protection and transportation issues. Both Brad and I were very impressed at their professionalism and thoroughness. We hope to do another trip sometime in the future.