KUNDUZ, Afghanistan – As the Ramadan observance comes to a close, the people of Afghanistan begin a celebration known as Eid ul-Fitr. Commonly, children receive gifts such as new clothes or candies to mark the end of the Islamic holy month of fasting.
The many children at the Kunduz City orphanage do not normally have an opportunity to take part in this celebration. This year, Capt. Tony Hampton of 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, and fellow Soldiers delivered gifts to the orphanage Sept. 7 to celebrate with the children.
“It’s customary in this country for children to receive gifts, clothing and candies so they can also have a celebration during this holiday,” Hampton said. “I wanted to help those children celebrate and brighten up their day.”
Numerous boxes of clothing, shoes, toys and stuffed animals were given to the orphans. Hampton said he contacted individuals at many different organizations in the United States, who dug in their own closets or spent their own money to buy supplies.
“I have been receiving clothing and toys and shoes and socks from places all over the United States,” he said.
Just by putting the word out about the orphanage, Hampton received boxes from various groups and families. Workers at an organization in Mississippi bought coloring books and crayons for the children.
“If you tell them you want to give to an orphanage, people will send,” Hampton said. “Many of those clothes were from people’s closets that their children can no longer wear. Instead of throwing them out, give them to some children who will appreciate receiving them.”
During the visit, Hampton and 1st Lt. Steven Solaja, a platoon leader with C Company, 1-87 Infantry, spoke to the director of the orphanage about their needs.
“The director kept saying his desire is to teach these (children) so they don’t grow up and join the Taliban and that they do have an opportunity to pursue wanting to be a doctor or a teacher,” Hampton explained. “But, they have all those children and no room to teach them in – that really struck me.”
Outside the school, no playground equipment can be found. Hampton hopes Soldiers of 1-87 Infantry can help him build a swing set for the children to play on.
“They don’t even have a playground to play on,” he said. “Children just want to be children. If we could give them a simple swing, they can do that.”
Seeing the appreciation on the faces of the children when they were given a new shirt or a toy left a big impression on Soldiers from C Company.
“Many of the Soldiers are going to ask their Families to send old clothes and stuff that we can give to the children,” Hampton said. “The reason I try to get Soldiers involved is because seeing what other people are going through and the conditions in which they are living in should inspire any human being to help those who are less fortunate. I’m glad that those guys got to see for themselves what it’s like to give a gift to a child in need.”
Hampton and C Company plan to visit the orphanage at least once a month bearing more gifts before they redeploy to Fort Drum next year.