During his deployment to Afghanistan, David Gaitonde’s duty was to train the Afghan army. Yet as he worked, he saw many children who had severe medical needs.
Although he was far away from his church family at Wesley, he said he wondered, “How could we help?”
Gaitonde found his answer in a People magazine article.
“That’s where I learned about Solace,” a non-profit that provides medical treatment to needy Afghan children affected by the war. “I sent the information back to our youth,” he said.
Before learning about Solace, the youth had worked to collect coats as part of their mission efforts for Afghanistan.
When youth director Patty Gilbert shared the great medical needs with the teens, “they were ready to go to help,” Gilbert recalled.
“Patty found a way to bring Afghanistan to us,” said Laura Moeller, one of the church’s youth.
Solace for the Children operates four branches in the United States in Charlotte, N.C.; Jacksonville; Los Angeles; and Columbus, Ohio. Solace fosters partnerships with physicians, churches, businesses and host families. To date, more than 250 children have received treatment.
A youth group from Wesley will make its fourth trip to the Charlotte branch this summer.
Gilbert said the youth assist with team-building activities that help to teach peace among the kids, and it helps the children with bonding. It also supports Solace’s additional goals to help the children by building peace and educating future leaders.
To support the cause, Wesley sponsors an annual 5K run/walk and fun run, The Great Wesley Chase.
All proceeds from previous years have gone to help Sher-Jon, an Afghan boy who had clubbed feet and a heart condition.
“This has been a very neat process,” Gilbert said. “Many of our teens have wondered, ‘what good is it going to do to get up on a Saturday morning for a 5k run?’ But by helping kids like Sher-Jon and serving at Solace, they get to see that they can do something small and have a big impact on others.”
The money will help provide treatment for Sher-Jon and another child.
This year’s race will be March 16. Race-day registration begins at 8 a.m. The course will begin at Wesley, continue through Deer Run and return to the church.
Entry fees range from $12 to $20, and the early registration deadline is Feb. 27. To register, contact Patty Gilbert at (706) 869-0888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.