'Help children of Kabul'

The plight of children caught up in the conflict in Afghanistan has prompted a senior RAF Marham policeman to set up a special project as a permanent legacy of support for the youngsters.

The plight of children caught up in the conflict in Afghanistan has prompted a senior RAF Marham policeman to set up a special project as a permanent legacy of support for the youngsters.

Flight Sgt Paul "Swampy" Edwards needs support for his scheme as he nears the end of a tough four-month tour based in Kabul.

He hopes to raise at least £1,000 towards the cost of an IT learning centre specially for girls in the town.

Flight Sgt Edwards said: "This will be the first of its kind in the whole of Afghanistan. I came up with the idea after chatting to elders and the schools.

"I decided that it should be for girls because it has become recognised that there is a need for them to receive the same education as boys.

"This does not tend to happen at the moment, for a variety of cultural and historical reasons."

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Flight Sgt Edwards and his wife, Sallyanne, a prostate cancer specialist nurse at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn, have two daughters of their own, Lucy, seven, and Lily, four.

He said: "Lily has Down's Syndrome, which has made me more aware of how all children have a very special place in this world, and led me to think it would be good to do something to help girls here in Afghanistan."

His work as deputy international police station commander at Kabul International Airport with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and a group of 11 British, Belgian and Bulgarian military police doesn't leave much spare time. It is difficult to organise money-raising functions because of the security situation, but he is hoping colleagues at Marham will be running some events.

He is also hoping his venture will attract the attention of local businesses. He said: "If we don't get the foundations in place before I leave in November, I feel the venture will fail.

"So we need to do something very quickly. It will be very rewarding if it comes off and anyone who feels they can help - especially at RAF Marham - can be proud of assisting in setting up the first all-girls IT centre in Afghanistan."

Flight Sgt Edwards admitted high-profile security patrols were dangerous and there was

always a risk of "incoming" at the airport.

But it was while he was on his regular patrols that his heart went out to the people of the country.

"The people are very hardy and try to live off the barren land, but years of war have left their mark and they are very poor.

"One the whole, the people welcome us with open arms and are glad to see some form of normality in their

lives.

"If we are to help this country, we must first change the mindset that exists with so many and educate the next generation."

One particular incident prompted him to come up with his scheme. He said: "I was on patrol in Kabul centre, where in some districts poverty is evident everywhere.

"One child broke my heart - a girl aged about two, alone and in rags, begging in the street. Beneath the dirt she was a beautiful, normal child. It was this that spurred me into action."

When he returned home for a short leave in August, he showed his daughters photos he had taken -

and both gave a teddy each to be raffled for the project.

To help the project contact the Community Relations Office at RAF Marham on 01760 337261, ext 7332.