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>  News Releases >   2006 >   May

For two years running, Iraqi Kids Project makes the most of student hand-me-downs

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 05/12/06 • Susan Knapp (603) 646-3661

Looking at the piles of cast-offs left behind at Dartmouth after commencement, junior Meredith Wilson thought of a way to make use of all the clothes, school supplies and miscellany left in the dorms. Last year, Wilson, with the help of her sorority, Epsilon Kappa Theta, formed the Iraqi Kids Project. The project aimed to cull the items with the most use left in them and send them to the people of Iraq, with an emphasis on the needs of children. The project was such a huge success that starting May 15, the project will kick off its second year.

In its first year, the project was a phenomenal success. Wilson and other volunteers mailed 26 large packing boxes to Army Sergeant Matt Herring of the 25th Infantry Division to distribute to the Iraqi civilians he and his fellow soldiers encountered. Herring reported that distributing the clothes, books, and toys was the thing he most enjoyed in his interactions with the population. This year, with Herring's tour completed, the Iraqi Kids Project will be relying on First Lieutenant Melissa Hammerle '03, a former ROTC cadet currently serving with the 4th Infantry Division, to oversee distribution in Iraq.

The Iraqi Kids Project is a simple but labor-intensive idea. Volunteers leave drop boxes in the dorms and several public areas from May 15 till graduation. Although most of the items come from students getting rid of things, other contributions, especially kid-friendly items, are welcome. The boxes fill up so fast that it requires almost daily trips to empty them, and then the real work begins.

During the summer, the items are stored and sorted. Inappropriate items, such as revealing women's clothing, heavy winter coats, and clothing bearing explicitly American images or logos are pulled out and reserved for domestic donations. "We would never want to send a t-shirt or something that could make a child a target," explained Wilson, an international relations major whose study of Iraq has helped familiarize her with its cultural norms. She added that among the most useful items donated were 80s-style dresses. No longer in vogue in the U.S., the high-necked, conservatively-cut dresses have proven useful to Iraqi women.

The project's only major expense is the cost of shipping, which can be significant when a heavy box of clothes or shoes is being mailed. From now until the end of the spring term, the project volunteers and sponsors, which includes EKT, Tri-Kap, Aquinas House, and ROTC, will be fundraising every Monday in Thayer Dining Hall.

This summer, Wilson won't be around to sort through the donations, a task passed on to current sophomores, but she is still heavily involved in the product of her initiative. What makes the project so meaningful to her, Wilson explained, is that the Iraqi Kids Project is "a comprehensive idea. It directly benefits kids, it helps soldiers build better relationships with civilians, and increases familiarity and trust between soldiers and community members. We can help provide tangible aid, just by using what Dartmouth doesn't need."

Donation boxes are located in most Dartmouth residence halls and public donation boxes are located in Topside (upstairs from Thayer Dining Hall) and the Dartmouth Child Care Center. Donations to help support the cost of shipping the items are also accepted.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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