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Iraqi kids project

Students collecting clothing, toys until graduation

Two years ago, Meredith Wilson '07 and Liz Hunt '05 looked at the piles of cast-offs left behind by Dartmouth students after commencement and were convinced that there had to be a better use for all the clothes, school supplies, and miscellany left in the dorms. In 2005, Wilson, who is the service chair for Epsilon Kappa Theta (EKT), and Hunt, a ROTC cadet, enlisted the help of EKT in forming the Iraqi Kids Project. The project aimed to cull the most useful items and send them to the people of Iraq, with an emphasis on the needs of children.

In its first year, the project was a phenomenal success. Wilson and Hunt mailed 26 large packing boxes to Army Sergeant Matt Herring of the 25th Infantry Division to distribute to Iraqi civilians. Herring, a friend of Hunt's, told the women that distributing the clothes, books, and toys was the thing he most enjoyed in his interactions with the Iraqi people. 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 Fourth 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 donation centers from May 15 until graduation. Although most of the items come from students who are moving out of dorms, additional contributions, especially child-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 are pulled out and reserved for domestic donations.

After sorting the materials, project volunteers pack up the boxes by category, which helps the soldiers know in advance how to distribute them. By sending five boxes per week, Wilson and other sophomore volunteers were able to get all the donations distributed during the 2005 sophomore summer.

The project's only major expense is the cost of shipping, which can be significant. From now until the end of the spring term the project volunteers and sponsors, which include EKT, Tri-Kap, Aquinas House, and ROTC, will be fund-raising every Monday in Thayer Hall.

This summer, Wilson won't be on campus to sort 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, she explains, is that the Iraqi Kids Project is "a comprehensive idea. It directly benefits children, 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 students don't need."


Residence halls:

Russell Sage
Bissell/Cohen lounge
Mid Fayerweather
New Hampshire
Brace Commons for East Wheelock Cluster
Epsilon Kappa Theta
Casque & Gauntlet
Cutter Shabazz

Public donation locations:
Topside (upstairs from Thayer Dining Hall)
Dartmouth Child Care Center

Questions or comments about this article? We welcome your feedback.

Last Updated: 12/17/08