COMMUNITY Y TEENS HELP KIDS NEAR AND FAR

aishaCommunity YMCA members Aisha Bhoori of Middletown and Sahar Akbarzai of Old Bridge are coordinating a school supply drive through the YMCA to help give kids in Red Bank and Afghanistan a great start to the new school year.

Press release from The Community YMCA

Now through August 15,  The Community YMCA is hosting a school supply drive to help give kids from as near as Red Bank — and as far away as Afghanistan — a great start to the new school year. The drive is part of the Y’s new national Togetherhood initiative, that encourages Y members to give back and support their neighbors through community service projects.

Y members Sahar Akbarzai of Old Bridge and Aisha Bhoori of Middletown, both recent high school graduates, expressed an interest in a school supply drive, and through Togetherhood, were able to lead the effort. Both have established their own nonprofit organizations — the Hope Foundation of Afghanistan and Dreamers Without Borders, respectively — to provide support to children in war-torn Afghanistan.

Akbarzai, whose family is from Afghanistan, and Bhoori, whose family is from Pakistan, are grateful for the donations of school supplies that will be shared with the Afghan children. “It’s wonderful to see a community come together and donate their time to help another community on the other side of the world,” Akbarzai said.

According to Bhoori, donations that are greatly appreciated include notebooks, activity books, pens/pencils, crayons, markers and pocket folders. A full list of requested items can be viewed here.

Akbarzai explained that school supplies collected will be distributed to children in the Red Bank area through Lunch Break and shipped to refugee camps in Afghanistan, where children attend school in tents without electricity or chalkboards.

Stacey Lastella, Vice President of Camping and Outreach Services for The Community YMCA, described the program as “a simple, fun and rewarding way for members to identify ways to give back through their own ideas, skills and energy, and the network of the Y.”

As part of a cultural change between local children and kids in Afghanistan, the Y is also creating a mural to resemble the “hands-helping-hands” aspect of the Togetherhood project, Lastella said. The first set of hands were added last week to a mural by children attending the Y’s summer camps, while the second set will be created by the Afghan children when they receive the school supplies in September. The mural will travel back to Red Bank and will be displayed in the Y’s lobby as a symbol of “Togetherhood,” Lastella said.

Collection bins are available through Aug. 15 at The Community YMCA’s Family Health & Wellness Center, 166 Maple Avenue in Red Bank, and at the YMCA of Western Monmouth County’s Old Bridge branch, 1 Mannino Park Drive.

Y members are invited to lead and participate in volunteer service projects, similar to the school supply drive, and can contact Holly Haines for more information, (732)741-2504 or hhaines@cymca.org.