Ramstein Airman, mother team up to help kids

Story and photo by 1st Lt. Amber Balken
Zabul PRT

Nearly 200 children waited anxiously as Staff Sgt. Josh Paden and the members of the Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team distributed the boxes filled with donations.
Sergeant Paden, with the help of his mother Diane Paden and the Pendleton County community in West Virginia, was able to give shoes, clothes and toys to the children of Qalat City, Afghanistan.

While on patrol in the Zabul province, Sergeant Paden noticed most of the children who waved and gave them a thumbs up didn’t have shoes or proper winter clothing.
“When you see these kids you always wish there was something you could do,” said Sergeant Paden, who is deployed to Afghanistan from Ramstein. “They are usually very happy to see us, and it is sad to know they can’t afford shoes or clothes.”

Looking for a way to help, Sergeant Paden solicited the aid of his mom.

“I called her and told her about the kids here,” he said. “I wanted to know if there was a way that we could help and she basically took it from there.”

With the help of his mom, Sergeant Paden wrote a letter describing the conditions and the situation in Qalat. And together they sent the letter to the Pendleton Times, the local newspaper, and within days started to get a response.

Citizens from all over the county responded, sending boxes both to Ms. Paden and Sergeant Paden directly.

Donations included new and gently used clothing items, shoes, toys, books and even some donated money. Ms. Paden organized the items she received and used the donated money to pay for extra shoes and the shipping cost of the more than 20 boxes.

“My mom was the driving force behind the project,” Sergeant Paden said. “The only thing that she didn’t do was fly over here to give the shoes out herself.”

Boxes poured into Zabul and the PRT began organizing and planning for the distribution of the items. Realizing that everyone in the province was needy to some extent, Sergeant Paden and the PRT civil affairs team planned and invited the children from within Qalat City. The distribution lasted approximately three hours and saw nearly 200 local children.

“None of this would have been possible without my mom,” Sergeant Paden said. “She is a great woman who is always putting others before herself. A lot of kids have shoes and warm clothes because of her and the Pendleton County community.”