Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Help This One Soldier Provide Blankets to People in Afghanistan

I first learned about this one deployed soldier’s project from a tweet on Twitter. The person tweeting said his wife had checked out the announcement on Craigslist and it was legit:
Hello, I'm a U.S. Army soldier in Afghanistan. Winter is here and the cold is getting worse. Each year hundreds of children die because of the extreme cold in Afghanistan. Most people in Afghanistan are poor and cannot afford to buy blankets for the family.

I'm trying to collect blankets so we can help the people of this country in hard times. If you would like to help the troops bring prosperity and a brighter future to Afghanistan by donating a blanket please contact me. Thank you for your support to the troops.
I then emailed the soldier and got the following reply:
Thank you for your interest in helping us help the people of Afghanistan. My name is Gerardo Llamas; I am a Specialist in the U.S. Army currently in Afghanistan. If you are interested you can send your donations to me so I can go and donate them. My address here is:

Gerardo Llamas
APO AE 09356
My husband told me that Spirit of America is an organization that helps “Americans serving abroad assist people in need.” But I wanted to support Gerardo Llama, who all on his own is doing this humanitarian project.

I asked Specialist Llamas how he came to do this. Here is his reply (the boldface is mine):
First I would like to thank you for your interest in helping me make this effort a possibility. The idea came when I got here and realized how poor the people were in Afghanistan. I was suddenly interested in learning more about them, how they lived, their customs, and their way of life.

As I started learning from other people here, including the local nationals that worked on the base, I was amazed by their needs and lack of simple things, such as a blanket. Things that we usually take for granted back home.

I knew winter here tends to be rough and severe. So I wanted to do something else besides my military duty to help the people of Afghanistan and make a difference in someone's life. I first thought about buying a few blankets myself and donating them, but for some reason it didn't seem fair. There are hundreds of families out there suffering from the cold. I wanted to do more but of course I did not have the money to help everybody.

That's when I thought about collecting blankets from back home. I first wanted to get in touch with family members so they could help me by getting blankets from around the neighborhood or church. After talking to them I decided I wanted more; I wanted to help the most people I could.

All of a sudden I found myself browsing through Craigslist.com for some item for my entertainment here and that's when I realized the huge number of people that browse through Craigslist.com.

I decided that if I put a post on Craigslist asking for donations at least 50 people would see it and might help. I posted in different places -- San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Dallas, El Paso, Chicago and a few more places -- the more people I could get to read these posts the better.

So far I have received about 50 replies from different places, but nothing has arrived yet. Some people said they would donate their old blankets, some said they'd buy some, some others even offered to collect blankets at their workplace or church.

I'm currently assigned to HQ ISAF in Kabul. I'm an individual augmentee, therefore my unit is back in San Antonio, Texas. I came here as a volunteer.

The people I'd be donating to are locals -- from villages around the city to the local orphanage and children's hospital. I plan to distribute the blankets to the most people I can around the area.

Thank you for your interest and support to the troops, God bless!
I just bought four twin-size blankets on the Kmart website and had them shipped directly to Specialist Llama’s APO address. (See APO address above –- the Kmart online charge system puts the AE of this APO address in the space for state info and then recognizes this address as an APO address.) If you have used blankets to send, these are also good.

In the spirit of this holiday season and the new year, I hope you’ll support the efforts of one soldier to make a difference. And his single-handed effort is offering us the opportunity to make a difference. As Judaism teaches, to save one life is as if you have saved an entire world.

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