While many children made lists of the video games and compact discs they wanted or the holiday season that recently ended, school children from the Langley School in McLean were collecting gifts of necessities for peers they have never met.
"It's very good to help someone who needs it, and Afghanistan needed a lot of help," said Langley School fifth grader Jessica Martin, 11, of McLean.
Martin and her classmates at the Langley School sent "13 copy paper sized boxes" of hats, scarves, gloves, mittens and small stuffed animals overseas to Islamabad in Pakistan to be distributed to refugees, said Chris Tveit, the head of the lower school.
"Traditionally we do a giving tree — we set up a menorah and a Christmas tree and collect new unopened toys and games for charity," she said. This year there was a need to send such necessities overseas, said Tveit, an acquaintance with U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlin of McLean.
Chamberlin was one of the people U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf visited with during his trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan from Jan. 2-10. Wolf spoke about his experiences to the Langley School's lower school last Friday, Jan. 25, including an up date on the materials the children sent to the war torn region.
"Hey, your stuff really got there," said Wolf during the showing of a video to the children. Wolf's delegation included Rep. Tony Hall of Ohio and Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania and was the first to visit Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, he said.
"We went to a girl's school. They don't have pens, pencils, books, desks — they sit on cold floors," said Wolf. "They were not allowed to go to school for five years under the Taliban. They are thirsting for education."
<bt>Wolf and his delegation visited refugee camps where supplies like those the Langley School sent were distributed — but not directly to the people at the camps. "There were thousands of people," said Wolf, suggesting that there might have been a riot.
A camp the Wolf delegation visited was on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. "These people live in very poor conditions — they have almost no food or medical treatment available. They have warm days, but very cold nights and no heaters. We talked to refugees who walked hundreds of miles to get to the refugee camp. This is a terrible place — very grim," said Wolf.
"How much time [is needed] to restore Afghanistan to its former condition," asked fifth grader Julia Urow-Hamell, 10, of McLean.
"It's hard to say," replied Wolf. "They need help and they need to show progress in education and health care. I think it will take a long, long while."
<bt>At one point during his discussion, Wolf passed around a burka, or head covering, for the children to examine. "Women are afraid to take the burka off," said Wolf, noting that it had been ordered to be worn by the Taliban, but no longer required. "Many women fear having acid thrown in their faces," said Wolf, thanking the students for their gifts.
"'To whom much is given, much is required.' That's from the Bible. We have been blessed. We have an obligation to help the poor and hungry," said Wolf.
"I feel bad for them, but I'm glad we can help them," said first grader Amy Fifer from Great Falls.
Wolf encouraged the children to continue to help by sending things to Pakistan and then offered praise to the U.S. military. "Our military is doing a tremendous job."
"This was a very good presentation — very descriptive with lots of information," said Urow-Hamell.
"We studied Afghanistan in social studies last year," said fifth grader Andy Malcolm, 11, of McLean. "I don't find Afghanistan to be at fault — but one man — Osama bin Laden. The Taliban gave him people for his army — the extremists are doing the dirty work," said Malcolm.