INDIANAPOLIS — When Ibrahim Bata’s mother escaped from the Soviets in Afghanistan in 1982, her family lost everything and she didn’t have any shoes.
“If my mom’s story was any different, I would probably be one of kids at the camp and I would hope that someone would do something to help me,” said the teenager, so he started hitting up his classmates at Zionsville High School for donations and began a GoFundMe account to put the pinch on his relatives and in less than a month Ibrahim had raised more than $11,000 to buy shoes and socks for young Afghan evacuees at Camp Atterbury.
“Mostly for kids we wanted to focus on since they are not as stable on their feet and probably fall over,” he said. “Most of them are barefoot at the camp so we wanted to protect their feet.”
40% of Camp Atterbury’s Afghan guests are under the age of 15 and 15% are under the age of four.
“The first thing that the mothers said was, ‘It doesn’t matter for me, as long as my child is taken care of,’” said Rayhana Rahim who volunteer efforts on behalf of Operation Allies Welcome inspired her son to raise the money to ease the newcomers’ plight. “The first thing that the mothers said was, ‘It doesn’t matter for me, as long as my child is taken care of,’ but the first thing that they really requested for their children was shoes, ‘If we could just have shoes and we could have warm clothing, especially coats, so that they are taken care of.’”
Last week, 500 pairs of shoes and one thousand pairs of socks were dropped off at the warehouse of Team Rubicon which is coordinating the delivery of donations to the evacuees at Camp Atterbury.
“Most of the issues that go on, you wouldn’t even think of, like most people don’t even think about shoes when they think about refugees coming,” said Ibrahim. “Mostly you just think about hand sanitizer or diapers or those kinds of things, but just shoes, its something so basic that may not even cross your mind.”
As Ibrahim imagined what it would be like to be an evacuee far from home trying to walk a mile, or more, without shoes, he was encouraged by his mother who said she was inspired by those parents she counsels on the base.
“Every mother wants the very best for their child, wants the best for their children, and these mothers are no different,” said Rayhana. “They’ve very loving, very selfless and the first thing that the mothers said was just with gratitude, thanking everyone for their support, thanking for their efforts, but in addition, just wanting to make sure that if no one helped them, at least their children would be helped.”
Ibrahim is applying to Harvard and Purdue and wants to study neuroscience when he graduates.
Before then, he’ll start another round of fundraising in order to purchase new winter coats for the evacuees who arrived in central Indiana at the end of summer but are likely to stay through winter.
“I’ve been given such a great opportunity living in America, getting the privilege that I have, that coming from an Afghan family, I know that its my duty to do something to help.”
Only new items will be accepted from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the following National Guard armories:
- Evansville: 3300 E. Division St.
- Greenfield: 410 Apple St.
- Rockville: 224 W. Strawberry Road
- Danville: 1245 E. Main St.
- Muncie: 401 N. Country Club Road
- Indianapolis: Kessler-Moore Readiness Center, 2625 W. Kessler Blvd. North Drive
- Fort Wayne: 130 W. Cook Road
- South Bend: 1901 Kemble Ave.
- New Albany: 2909 Grant Line Road
The following items are being accepted at the armories because they have been identified as needed the most. The items should be in their original packaging:
- Men’s and women’s unbranded, modest clothes such as long sleeve t-shirts, underwear, pants and jackets in sizes small to large. No shorts or tank tops.
- Children’s clothing, including baby and newborn clothes, hats and socks
- Powdered baby formula
- Socks, hats, shoes and slide-on sandals (no flip flops) for evacuees of all ages
Any organization or business seeking to make a large donation and cannot deliver to a designated site should contact IDHS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hoosiers interested in making monetary donations can do so through Team Rubicon or the American Red Cross at the following links: