January 26th, 2010
11:12 AM ET

Photo spotlight: Balloons in Kabul

Kabul, Afghanistan - I don't know why but I just didn't expect to see something as frivolous as a balloon seller plying his trade on the ravaged streets of Kabul. It is a joyless city on many levels, but it's encouraging to see this sign of childhood fun. For many children in Kabul, their toys are made from the trash – a rubber inner tube from a bicycle wheel, simple pieces of wood fashioned into a plane or a kite made from salvaged plastic. For many, a balloon would be a real treat – something to treasure and guard jealously.

soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. aman amin

    i thank Tahera Nassrat for her coments.hoep evey one think like her.God bless the Afghans and the Kids

    March 23, 2010 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Nathanael [desert voice]

    Tom, I agree as far as electronic toys. But we cannot act paranoiacally! Bicycles are not much different than shoes when it comes to disguising bombs! You can put a powerful bomb in the soles of shoes, but this cannot mean that we cannot send shoes to Afghanistan The same applies to bicycles. If you give a child a bicycle, you gain his heart, and in the future you will likely have a friend, not a suicide bomber!

    February 19, 2010 at 6:46 am | Report abuse |
  3. Lisa

    Thank you, Everyone, for all of your comments. It's great to hear all of the different ideas and I especially appreciate Tom's comments which bring a little of the reality to the situation. My son was just deployed to Afghanistan with the Marines last Saturday. Although he'd already been deployed to Iraq previously, the situation in Afthanistan seems more dire. I know that we want to do the right thing and I've been wondering what that might be. In light of Tom's comment, I'm still wondering.

    Is there an official policy on this...that is, what Americans and troop families should and shouldn't send?

    February 18, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tom

    Any electronic toys sent will be used for IEDs by Taliban fighters as will pens be used to make blasting caps. Bicycles have the potential to be used as IEDs as well.Also throwing toys and candy to children encourages them to gather around the US convoys making them potential casualties in IED attacks and fire fights. Please think about this before you send things, I realize it makes people feel good but there is also a negative side.

    January 29, 2010 at 6:48 am | Report abuse |
  5. Phlowermom

    These are wonderful ideas people! Don't let this go! DO SOMETHING!

    January 28, 2010 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. cheryl boland

    What great ideas everyone posted. Could someone post info about where and how to send these items? i can easily get items together but have no idea where to send them in Africa or Afghanistan or anywhere else actually. i assume i can get shipping cost info from the post office? In appreciation of any info people can offer

    January 28, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Nathanael [desert voice]

    Afghanistan kids are in great need of bicycles. Many thousands of these lie unused in American backyards. They could be collected by a special trailer truck, loaded into a container, and sent to Afghanistan to be distributed by the U.S. troops. There are so many organizations in America that could start this project in coordination with the U.S. Army. What seems so trivial at first, such bicycle diplomacy, might have more effect on changing the Afghan hearts than just shooting the Taliban.

    January 28, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. omed husseinkhel

    i am from afghanistan i was born in kabul and blessed to be here in the united states thank you for all your wonderfull comments and ideas people such as your selves are the reason why this country is so great ;- )

    January 28, 2010 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  9. dodong

    but please, no toy guns and the like! i'd rather that used balls (basketball,tennis,volleyball,football, soccer, baseball,softball,etc) be shipped to the troops rather than bullets and granades

    January 28, 2010 at 3:46 am | Report abuse |
  10. Eric

    As a former Soldier from the 101st Airborne Division who traveled within Afghanistan through a number of of Provinces (the equivalent to our States). I can tell you, from my observation, the idea of toys is really a great concept. Many children benefited from simple toys Soldiers handed out–well, those not being fought over by other boys, or sold to others. Toys such as soccer balls for example, were universally popular in Afghanistan. But the concept did not end there. Care packages received from Soldiers' family members and various non-profit organizations also included mundane items like pens, pencils, and crayons–who were then distributed to Afghanis in need–also contributed a great deal happiness in Afghan children, and the Soldiers fortunate enough to handing them out. It is one of the few basis in which wining the "hearts and minds" to Afghanistan can really be seen, and felt.
    So, having said what I've seen and done, there are some things I learned about the culture of Afghan children, in respect to toys: They like soccer balls; they like kites; and they like sling shots (chip-fixed PS2's were a rare and distant 4th place). Not necessarily the top choice of toys for most American kids. But, as the article might imply: Simplicity is the road to sublime happiness. Well, at least to the Afghanis.

    January 28, 2010 at 2:55 am | Report abuse |
  11. CJ

    The contrast always reminds me of what we have and stops any complaints. Good luck to them all there.

    January 27, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Chris Huynh

    Let's begin with peace. Live with peace. End with peace, joy and toys.

    January 27, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jennifer

    I spent 4 years working for the government in Africa. I would ship myself crates of boxes of 8 crayons and little tablets of white paper. All the kids in my neighborhood got a set, and I left more at local schools. It cost me less than 50 cents a kid, including shipping! The pictures they drew me are priceless masterpieces.

    January 27, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Heather Adcock

    That's so good to hear!! Keep up the joyous pleasures!! 🙂

    January 27, 2010 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  15. silvergirl

    At this time, many of the packages that go to our troops in Afghanistan have toys of various kinds...beanie babies, etc....for them to give to nearby children if they see someone that could use them. In those boxes, tho, things have to be small enough to fit in and that will stand the wear and tear of travel.Sometimes, I put pencils, crayons, paper also along with animal crackers etc.in the hope that some child will find them and like them. The little girls hardly venture out, and the boys get most things, but I just hope that some of the girls receive some things some of the time.

    January 27, 2010 at 2:46 am | Report abuse |
  16. Tahera Nassrat

    I Agree Rkeener; i think there has to be a source, or best, as you said, military facilities to send the unwanted toys to afghan children to get the real pleasure of their childhood.
    Most of children in Afghanistan lose their lives or their bodies’ important parts by playing with dangerous stuff from rubbish. You can imagine what can be found in the trash of a country where you get rocket and bullet instead of rain….. God Bless those children

    January 27, 2010 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
  17. astricklin

    My husband is actually deployed in Afghanistan right now and that is exactly what he is doing. Our family sends candy and toys over to him and when he is out he gives them to the kids! Great idea!!!

    January 26, 2010 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
  18. rkeener

    It would be a good idea to send our children's unwanted and disregarded toys to these poor children. A gently used toy would mean the world to the afghan children who have little. Imagine what a doll or toy truck would mean to them if a ballon is such a treat. whatsmore, I say have our soldiers give them out. Our troops would love the chance to bing this kind of hope, and it is truly a way into"the hearts and minds of the people". I don't know how to start this but am willing

    January 26, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |