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Myrtle Philip students organize coat campaign for Afghanistan



The spirit of giving is alive and well in Whistler.

On the last day of school before the Christmas break Grade 5 and 6 peer counsellors packed up scores of winter jackets, snow-pants, snow-suits, boots, gloves and hats and sent them to the needy in war-ravaged Afghanistan.

"It's important to do this because of what happened in Afghanistan and the people there they are not really wealthy enough to go out to the store and buy clothes," said Grade 6 student Melissa Smith.

"And it is hard for them in the mountains. They are trying to find their families again and they need as much help as we can give them."

The kids took on the project after school counsellor Jan Derpak read them an article out of a Vancouver paper telling of the desperate need for warm clothing in the region.

Requests for help went home with kids at Myrtle Philip and families opened their closets, attics and mud-rooms to find suitable clothing.

Soon garbage bags at the school were overflowing and peer counsellors collected more stuff everyday.

"This makes me feel really special," said Smith.

"We are the only people doing this here and it is really cool that all the kids are just putting in and helping.

"We got so much stuff it is so exciting because all those kids in Afghanistan are going to get clothes to keep them warm."

Getting the clothes was one thing. Arranging their transport to Afghanistan was quite another.

Derpak phoned several well known international organizations before getting in touch with Operation New Beginnings in Abbottsford.

"It ships food, clothing and medical supplies by container to Afghanistan and Romania and a number of other countries," said Derpak of the organization.

"They had a container that was going on Jan. 13 and if we could get the goods to Abbottsford they would ship it for free."

Now the quest was on to get the clothes from Whistler to Abbottsford. Before long Derpak had a truck lined up, thanks to Whistler-Blackcomb, and distribution manager Kevin Rey donated his time to drive the truck from the school to the shipping depot in Abbottsford.

"The response has been overwhelming," said Derpak.

"We called this ‘In the Spirit of Giving’ and the kids just feel amazing about what they have accomplished.

"I think they feel quite benevolent.

"I think they are learning that it feels incredible to give and to be part of a project that gives."

For 10-year-old Jesse Clemiss it was a chance to help those less fortunate than himself.

"We have so much stuff," he said. "Some of the stuff was new."

With the harsh winters in Afghanistan and what happened on Sept. 11 it’s been good to get Myrtle Philip elementary school to pitch in and get some clothes for kids over there.

"They will really be glad to have them I'm sure."