UPDATE NOVEMBER 14, 2012: With great sadness we are announcing that our School Supplies for Afghan Children Project has come to an end. With Rex’s retirement from the military & new civilian career, we simply don’t have the resources to keep the program running. We want to thank the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation for the ability to run the program under their organization from 2009 to 2012 and fully support the foundation’s decision to end the project as we move away from the Foundation’s home base in Tampa.
Since I returned from Afghanistan, our school supplies drive actually became a college level course at University of South Florida’s Honors College. Please get in touch if you would like to help with a drive at your school, your church or another community organization you are involved in. If you are currently serving in Afghanistan and need school supplies for your area, also please get in touch. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can also follow our latest news on our Facebook page here:
More information about the USF course click here.
Thanks so much for all the support. We have managed to distribute tens of thousands of donated items to thousands of Afghan children since
starting this project in June 2009 under Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation, a registered 501c3 nonprofit. We’ve had lots of wonderful folks across the country in 17 states so far collecting supplies and we’re happy to have you join our mission! Below you can read how the whole thing got started thanks to one very special child in Kapisa Province.
They crowd into a dimly lit room and sit quietly on the concrete floor or wooden benches. The paint on the walls is peeling and the inside room temperature frequently reaches a hundred degrees and drops below freezing during the winter. An occasional breeze blows between the broken shards of glass still attached to the window frames.
They wait patiently. These are not prisoners, instead this is the daily routine experienced by thousands of Afghan children attending school. The school I depicted is typical of remote village schools here in Afghanistan. The children attending the school I described are fortunate because some of the remotest areas don’t have school buildings and classes are held under a large shade tree or an awning.
I have visited a few schools since arriving here and can attest to their conditions. Many of the schools do not have electricity or running water. The teacher uses a special green spray paint on concrete in place of a chalkboard to guide the lessons. It amazes me the discipline displayed by the students in these less than favorable environments.
These children have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and will endure substandard conditions to pacify their yearning to learn. Unfortunately, the schools don’t have enough teachers so they accommodate the children by having rotating shifts; one of the schools I have visited has so many children they are on triple sessions. The wealthier students carry a notebook and a pen or pencil to record the teacher’s instructions; however, majority of students are so poor they have no supplies and they have to rely on memorization.
While visiting a remote village in the dangerous Alisaya Valley and being mobbed by children for pens and paper, I met an outspoken 8-year-old boy. His powerful words have resonated with me and given me a renewed purpose to fight the Taliban and the insurgents using non-lethal force. For a more detailed explanation about my encounter with this brave child, please see this previous blog entry.
After that encounter I begin formulating a plan with my wife Liisa to provide school supplies for these children. Armed with my idea and an energetic wife, we teamed up with the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation, Inc. in Tampa, Florida, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.
Contributions to this foundation are tax-deductible and 100% of the proceeds (no administrative fees) will be used to support this project. Those wishing to make financial contributions should make their checks payable to the Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation, Inc. and in the memo section or on a post-it note, the donor
should write: Afghan School Supplies Fund. Checks should be mailed to
Holland & Knight LLP
201 N. Franklin Street – 12th Floor
Tampa, FL 33602
You can also donate online with a credit card through this link http://foundation.hklaw.com/contributions/index.asp – make sure when you finalize the transaction that you choose “Afghan Children’s Fund” in the drop down menu. All donated funds will be used to purchase school supplies and for shipping items to Afghanistan.
In Tampa, Florida, school supplies can be dropped off at WUSF studios at University of South Florida’s Tampa campus or you can call us at (813) 765 5886 for a pick up. Our main emphasis is to provide basic school supplies to include spiral notebooks, pencils, and pens to the impoverished students along with whiteboards, markers, erasers and chalk for their teachers. We will gladly accept coloring books, crayons, metric rulers, and pencil sharpeners. A generous donor (requesting anonymity) has joined our team and will provide a backpack for each student (our goal is to help 7,000 children in the first phase of this project).
Lastly, you can help us by recruiting a church, a school, a corporation or a private organization to conduct their own school supplies drive as part of this project. If you are interested, please contact me through this e-mail address: TRexinAfghanistan@gmail.com or leave a comment on the blog. Unfortunately due to poor Internet connectivity I may not be able to respond personally, but my wife monitors both the e-mail address and the blog’s comment traffic; she will be able to provide additional details to interested parties.
I may not be able to capture Osama Bin Laden personally, but I can defy the Al Qaeda and Taliban ideology by helping to educate tomorrow’s leaders in Afghanistan. So if you want to join our team and this fight for education, please send me a response or better yet – send me some school supplies.
Contact e-mail: TRexinAfghanistan@gmail.com
Financial donations: Make checks payable to The Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation, Inc. and in the memo section or on a post-it note write: Afghan School Supplies Fund. Mail checks to The Holland & Knight Charitable Foundation, PO Box 2877, Tampa, FL 33602. Or donate online by credit at http://foundation.hklaw.com/contributions/index.asp
Tampa, FL drop-off location: SS American Victory Mariner’s Memorial and Museum ship located behind the Florida Aquarium at Channelside.
If you would like to collect and donate school supplies in the Savannah, GA area, you can drop off your donations at Colonial Quilts. For more information, click on this link.
You can also read about the connection between the Tampa and Savannah drives in this Washington Post article.