10 Aug. 2008

PR# 2008-378

ISAF soldiers bring hope, Australian football to Afghan orphans

KABUL, Afghanistan - Despite never having been exposed to Australian football, Afghan children at an orphanage on the outskirts of Kabul quickly caught on when some ISAF soldiers dropped by this week with a bag of balls donated by the Sydney Swans football club.

The soldiers from Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and Ireland organised the visit to Mahboba’s Promise Orphanage after hearing about the good work being done for the children.

The orphanage was founded by Mahboba Rawi, an Australian citizen born in Afghanistan, who has set up a charity in Australia to raise money for Afghan widows and orphans.

Mahboba’s Promise supports 150 widows and their children in Kabul and another 100 in other parts of Afghanistan. The orphanage gives refuge to 75 children under 12 years of age.

Australian Army Sergeant Brad Landouw said the egg-shape of an Australian football was different to what the children had seen before, but the delight on the children’s faces when they were given the footballs said it all.

“It’s amazing that we can cross international boundaries and face language barriers, but kids the world over love to kick a football,” Sergeant Landouw said. “It was a really moving experience to play with the children here. I have kids of a similar age myself, and it’s sad to know that these children don’t have parents who can kick a football around with them.”

In addition to the footballs, the ISAF soldiers also delivered clothing on behalf of an Australian Rotary Club.

“We’re keen to help out,” said Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Hocking. “It’s not just about giving financial assistance but also spending time with the kids and having some fun with them.”

One of the orphanage staff members, Omid Sultani, said the gesture from the ISAF soldiers was deeply appreciated.

“The Australians and the other soldiers have shown their humanity,” he said. “They came here, not as warriors, but as caring friends. The children are the future of Afghanistan. They just need a chance. The generosity of the soldiers and the people of Australia are helping the children to have that chance.”

Sergeant Kaz Waltis is another of the Australian soldiers who has small children back home. As a mother, she found the visit to the orphanage a sad yet rewarding experience.

“It was so nice to see the smiles on the faces and the excitement among the children. Giving them a better life is what we’re here for,” Sergeant Waltis said.

Contact Information ISAF Public Affairs Office
Tel: +93 (0)799 51 1155 - Mobile: 0093 (0) 799 55 8291 pressoffice@hq.isaf.nato.int - www.nato.int/isaf/