Reaching out across the world
Madison schools and firefighter get supplies to children in war-torn Afghanistan
Record Managing Editor
8-year-old Rockman Sadik is a young boy living in Afghanistan.
The school he goes to is nothing like the schools that children here in Madison are blessed with in being able to attend. It has been said that most of the schools in Afghanistan are in poor condition, with dirt floors and virtually no supplies for teaching.
However, in spite of the difficult conditions the children in Afghanistan face each day while trying to get an education, a bright and cheerful smile came across this young child's face as he was handed a coloring book from Madison's own Steve Perry. Perry is currently serving in the military in Afghanistan.
"America – Number 1!"
Sadik spoke these words to Perry after receiving the coloring book that was given to him from donations by elementary students here in Madison and other local organizations.
"It all started at Heritage Elementary School. My wife, who is a teacher at Heritage, along with Cindy Davis, started a project to send the deployed soldiers care packages containing snacks, toiletries, cookies, etc.," Perry explained. "I believe nearly 25 boxes of things have been sent. They really took care of us."
From there, Perry said on one of his outings, he spent some time in the vicinity of an Afghani school.
"I saw how poor the country and villages were. The schools there are in very poor shape," Perry said. "Some had dirt floors with rugs put out for the children to sit on. Some had improved 'pole barn' type structures for school outbuildings. Some were in fairly good shape by Afghan standards, while others virtually had no supplies. It was pathetic."
Perry said when his wife asked him what other items the soldiers needed, he said they were fine.
"I told her about the school situation, so I asked her to send school supplies instead of things for the soldiers," Perry said. "That is all it took."
Perry said the Lunch Bunch (ladies from the Corps of Engineers in Huntsville) and St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Madison started sending items for soldiers and school supplies.
"Between the group of ladies and St. John's, I received more than 60 boxes of soldier supplies and school supplies," Perry said. "Word got out and the project grew quickly. Before I knew it, I was collecting box upon box of school supplies."
Among the organizations contributing to the supplies was Heritage Elementary School, West Madison Elementary School, The Lunch Bunch, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Gordon-Bibb Elementary School in Decatur, Calhoun Community College, several churches located in Athens, and others.
Darlene Fowler, who works with Perry's mother-in-law, Glenda Humphrey, at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Support Center in Huntsville, is a member of the Lunch Bunch. Fowler further explained what the Lunch Bunch is all about and the efforts made to get school supplies to Afghanistan.
"Several of the Lunch Bunch folks are also members of the American Society of Military Comptrollers, an organization of more than 500 civilian and military employees and corporate sponsor members," Fowler said. "I mentioned this undertaking to the committee and it was passed along from there to all the ASMC members at Redstone Arsenal."
Fowler said the idea expanded from there and approximately 150 boxes of items for the soldiers and school supplies for the children were donated as a result.
"Of these, about 50 boxes came from St. John's," Fowler said. "These boxes were sorted, packed and shipped by the Lunch Bunch members and Resource Management employees at the Corps. The other items came from individual donations made by ASCM members and Redstone employees."
Fowler said ASCM member Ann Green, with help of members Debra Willman and Ronnie Brogan sorted, boxed and shipped the remaining 100 boxes."
"I have no good count on the amount of supplies, It's packed up at the present time, but I can tell you some of the estimates," Perry said. "It includes more than 2,000 pens and pencils, 5,000 pieces of paper, 200-plus packs of crayons, 100-plus coloring books, more than 20 individual chalkboards, dozens and dozens of scissors, pencil sharpeners, rulers, glue stick, boxes of miscellaneous supplies, and much more."
Perry said the real story behind this effort to get school supplies to the children in Afghanistan is the folks here in Madison.
"I only wish they could have seen the children's faces when they received these supplies," Perry said. "A couple of kids colored American flags and gave them to me to send back to the United States. I can't express in words what the folks back home have accomplished."
Perry said he hopes to return to Madison very soon.
Editor's note: Perry sent the information, along with his personal comments for the story, via e-mail from Afghanistan. He has been deployed since Aug. 2002. He is unable to disclose his exact location due to security reasons. Perry said he is supporting the Global War on Terrorism in the Central Command Area of Responsibility.
"I am a battalion S-2 (BN Intelligence Officer)," Perry said. "I provide timely, relevant, accurate, and synchronized intelligence to tactical, operational, and strategic commanders. In a nutshell, I'm the 'go-to' guy for my BN in respect to the enemy. If you really want to know the truth, I have a bunch of smart guys working for me…ha ha"