Common questions about our school supplies drive

Items waiting to be packed by the USF Honors students for a future shipment to Afghanistan.

Since we started this project in June 2009, we have had wonderful support from the Tampa Bay area community in Florida and so far from 17 other states. As the project has grown, we get frequently asked about certain aspects of the school supplies drive. Here are some of the answers:

“Why should I donate to kids in Afghanistan when there are so many needy children elsewhere in the world?”

“One of the answers to winning this war is to educate the people, especially the young children, because they are the future of Afghanistan.  I know this is a long process, but I think this is one of the essential keys in winning this war and finding a permanent solution.  From personal observation, the children want to be educated and they want to learn.  It doesn’t matter that its 100 degrees outside and they don’t have air conditioning or even windows in their classroom.  They have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and fervor for learning.  For them just owning a notebook and a pen that writes is a really big deal.”

– SMSgt Rex Temple in a guest editorial published in The Plain Dealer, a newspaper based in Cleveland, Ohio. You can read the full editorial here.

“How do you know these donated school supplies reach the children in Afghanistan?”

This is a question we get asked all the time. And it’s a legitimate question with so many negative stories being written about corruption and poverty in Afghanistan.

We know the supplies get to the children because we ship the donations to members of the U.S. military who have volunteered to deliver the supplies to needy kids in the villages near the areas where these brave men and women are deployed to. We currently have seven locations we ship to but due to security concerns we don’t publish those locations. The donations are delivered and distributed as part of humanitarian missions. We only publish photos from those missions if our volunteer troops send them to us with specific permission to share them with the public.

Children wait for donated school supplies at Aschiana, a special school for street kids in Kabul.

“Can you just give me an address I can ship to in the war zone?”

Due to security concerns we don’t release the shipping address of any military member who is part of our program without that person’s permission.

“How long does it take to do a drive?”

Car trunk full of school supplies wait for a "packing party" at USF Honors College.

On average it takes our volunteers here in the U.S. at least 2-6 weeks to get a successful donation drive completed and ready for shipment. The larger drives that bring in 30-50 boxes take 2-3 months to organize and carry out.

Once the boxes are packed and all the customs forms are filled out, we take them to the post office at MacDill Air Force Base. From there there boxes go via military mail and it takes about 2-3 weeks for them to reach a Forward Operating Base (FOB) somewhere in Afghanistan. From there it can take weeks for the troops to organize a safe delivery to a local village or school. The troops also open every box and sort all the donations; they then repack them for a safe delivery.

“Why don’t you accept computers and electric pencil sharpeners?”

Most of the villages our volunteer troops deliver the items to do not have electricity. That’s why we focus on shipping these items:

  • spiral notebooks
  • pencils
  • pens
  • small portable whiteboards
  • markers
  • erasers
  • chalk
  • crayons
  • metric rulers
  • pencil sharpeners
  • dull tipped children’s scissors
  • construction paper

“Will you help me with my drive?”

Absolutely. We have sample plans and posters and a list of ideas for activities. Just get in touch with us by leaving a comment on this blog or on our Facebook page or email us at TRexinAfghanistan@gmail.com.

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About Liisa Hyvarinen Temple

Multimedia journalist & multimedia production instructor at USF since 2002. Former Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellow (1999). Winner of Walter Cronkite political reporting award. Proud military wife.
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