Sgt. Karri Allison was moved to help as best she could after coming across an impoverished orphanage last fall in northwestern Afghanistan while on her second tour of duty.
Over 9,000 kilometres away in St. John's, her 10-year-old son, Alexei, and his Grade 4 classmates at Lakecrest Independent School have been doing their part as well to help children living without the luxuries they're accustomed to.
Allison, who is embedded in an American military camp, came across the orphanage while on patrol in November of last year. Because of security concerns, a more specific location cannot be identified.
"They had nothing, and it's very cold up in the mountain areas," said Heather Allison, the soldier's mother.
Heather Allison said her daughter sent money and advised her to purchase shoes and blankets to send back to Afghanistan for the orphanage.
It was at that point Alexei suggested they could help as well.
Alexei and his grandmother first sold tickets on a picture to raise money for the orphanage, an endeavour that caught the attention of his teacher, Debra Sharpe.
"We told the class, and the class helped out big time," said Alexei.
The students collected socks, crayons, colouring books, shoes and other items to send to Afghanistan. Since November, the students have raised $1,800.
"It makes me feel glad that I was able to help other people around the world," said Alexei.
One of Alexei's friends from school, fellow classmate Brogan Milne, felt inspired to give something back to the children overseas when he celebrated his most recent birthday.
Instead of gifts, Brogan asked that his guests offer donations to pass along to the orphanage.
"Alexei's my best friend, and I just like helping people," said Brogan in describing why he elected not to accept gifts for himself.
Heather Allison's sister in Ontario, Terri Gill, has also become involved. A Grade 4 teacher, Gill's class has been collecting donations for the orphanage.
Alexei's classmates appear to have a pretty good handle on the importance of what they are doing to help underprivileged children.
"We're really lucky that we get all this stuff like beds and toys and food, and a lot of children over in Afghanistan wouldn't have that, so we help make their lives a bit happier," said John Pearce.
"Most people really don't realize how lucky they are compared to other people who have nothing," added Dean McCarthy.
Rashmi Elamgage said there can be a tendency for children in Canada to want more than they actually need, and Maddie Duggan agreed with much of what her classmates said.
"It's really nice to donate stuff, like Rashmi, John and Dean said. Not a lot of people have what others have."
Eliza Young said old belongings you may not use anymore can find new life in the hands of others. Colin Connors agreed, and so did fellow classmate Ben Skinner.
"It's really nice to donate things, because it gives you a chance to feel good about something," said Skinner.
Isabella Fear adds that people should reassess their values when it comes to personal possessions.
Alexei said he has learned a great deal about Afghanistan through his mom. They exchange emails while she's overseas, and, at most, she can manage to call home once or twice a month. He cannot remember much of her first tour of duty in the country in 2006.
Alexei spoke publicly when the Portraits of Honour mural visited St. John's last fall.
"We mainly talked about people that we knew who were on the Portraits of Honour mural, and about what it's like to actually be a military mom's son. It's kind of hard, because you don't see your parents that much," he said, adding he misses his mom, who is due to return from Afghanistan in April.
Alexei said his class is still looking for items to send overseas and donations.
Sharpe said his mother is concerned about what will happen when she leaves Afghanistan.
"She wants to make sure the orphanage is taken care of, so she's trying to look for people who can take over for her when she leaves."
Sharpe said she is very proud of her students.
"I think they're amazing, and they know it, too. Right down from supporting Alexei and supporting the children over there."
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