Local kids pitch in to help Iraqis | AspenTimes.com

Local kids pitch in to help Iraqis

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

It’s a difficult concept for many American children to grasp.

Somewhere, clear on the other side of the world, lives a child who doesn’t have food, running water or even a toothbrush to call his own. A war, started by men whose names are hard to remember, took these things away.

It’s difficult to sit down with a 5-year-old – or, in many cases, an adult – and explain the recent conflict in Iraq and the effect on its citizens. Still, a dozen members of the Christ Episcopal Church Sunday School class met Saturday to give it a try.

“We’re here to give people in a place that’s called, uh …” said Jake Ferlisi, 5, struggling with the name of the country for a moment before settling on “Rock.”

Though Ferlisi had a little trouble with pronunciation, he was perfectly clear about his mission.

“We’re trying to give them things so they don’t die,” he said.

Ferlisi and his classmates spent the afternoon in the Christ Episcopal basement constructing care packages for the Church World Service. The project was organized to bring basic items needed for day-to-day hygiene – items made scarce by the war – to the children of Iraq.

The packages will be mailed to the Church World Service headquarters in New Windsor, Md., in a few days, where they will join hundreds of other packages from churches around the country before being mailed to Iraq.

Before the packages begin their long journey, they’ll be presented at a Christ Episcopal Sunday worship so church parishioners can “say a prayer for all the moms in Iraq who are going to be very, very, thankful,” said Karen Gwynne, wife of church pastor Geoff Gwynne.

The contents of each “Gift of the Heart” kit have been carefully outlined by the CWS, Karen Gwynne said. Each kit contains only the basics of day-to-day hygiene – towels, soap, toothbrushes, combs and other assorted items.

A variety of Aspen-area business owners pitched in to donate the items for Christ Episcopal’s kits, Gwynne said. Local dentists Dr. Robert Christensen and Dr. David Swersky donated toothbrushes and toothpaste; the Aspen Square Hotel and the St. Regis turned over towels, washcloths and soap; Wal-Mart contributed clippers and combs; and City Market presented the church with a gift certificate, which was used to purchase Band-Aids for the kits and soda for the Sunday School kids.

The class also lent to the list of donations. Each child brought a few dollars to purchase extras for the care packages and to cover shipping and handling for the trip to Iraq.

“They worked and earned their own money for it,” Gwynne said.

Their work continued Saturday, as the kids joined members of the Women’s Open Circle, a Bible study group based at Christ Episcopal, in creating the care kits. The group decided to make at least 60 packages – and combined with the 20 packets put together by the Aspen High School Outreach Club during their meeting on Friday, the church could send a substantial amount to the CWS, they agreed.

As they worked, third-grader Sloan Stryker – at 9 years old the senior member of the Sunday School class – tutored her peers on the importance of each carefully created kit.

“If you were sick, wouldn’t you want someone to bring you something to make you feel better? I would,” she said to two kindergartners as the trio counted out the required number of Band-Aids for each kit.

The kits will help the Iraqi children, “so they can be as healthy as us,” Stryker said.

“I feel really good, because if I were in trouble and had as many needs as they did, I would want a solution,” she said.

The group filled four laundry hampers and cardboard boxes with care packages before running out of supplies early Saturday afternoon. As the Sunday School class – and the Women’s Open Circle, appearing exhausted by a day of wrangling hyper kids – called it a day, the children seemed to have a better understanding of their project.

Kids, no matter where they live, need someone to look out for them, the church class decided.

“They need us to be their friend,” said 4-year-old Trevor Gwynne.

Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is jenniferd@aspentimes.com

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