Soldiers from A Company, 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment (1 YORKS) have taken gifts to Afghan children in Helmand to help them celebrate the Muslim festival of Eid.
1 YORKS is currently deployed in Afghanistan working alongside the Afghan National Army to help them prepare to fully take over security operations in the country in 2015.
A Company are working with The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, carrying out patrols and security operations alongside Afghan National Army soldiers.
Colour Sergeant Darren Hunter from A Company, 1 YORKS, came up with the idea to take bags of presents to underprivileged children in the western Dashte near Nad ‘Ali district to help them celebrate Eid al-Adha. This is an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God before God intervened to provide him with a sheep to sacrifice instead.
The Dashte is a large area of desert with clusters of compounds surrounded by fields that have traditionally been used to grow poppy.
Gifts including coats, wellington boots, small toys and shawls were loaded onto a quad bike by the men of 8 Platoon who then headed out from their patrol base.
Led by platoon commander Lieutenant Ben Brading, the patrol stopped off at an Afghan Uniform Police checkpoint to collect police commander Haji Zaman, his second-in-command and a policeman before pushing further into the Dashte.
At every one of the compounds the patrol visited, they were swamped by crowds of cheering children, and at one group of compounds all the newborn babies were brought out and shown off, and almost thrust into the hands of unprepared soldiers.
Lieutenant Brading said:
It was quite an incredible experience for us to give these children gifts. The idea was so simple but the children and their families and the village elders were extremely grateful. To see the excitement and initial disbelief in the children’s eyes was quite emotional and very humbling.
At one compound a little boy who could not have been more than two years old came up to me and kissed my hand in gratitude.
This has definitely been the most humbling and joyful thing I have done so far, both on this tour and in the Army. The children are just so grateful to receive so little and it really puts it into perspective how lucky we are in the UK.
One village elder by the name of Haji Abdul Mohammed said:
Eid is a time when we give presents, and so it is right to give presents. I thank the patrol very much for coming here and doing so. They have made the children very happy. Thank you very much.
Once all the presents had been distributed the patrol returned to Checkpoint Zaman and drank traditional chai (tea) with the Afghan police.
Checkpoint commander Haji Zaman said:
It is Eid and thus it is right to take presents, especially to the children who love Eid the most, and this has helped us bond with the people who live in the area that we work in and thus has made our job easier.