Parcels. We all like getting parcels. They give us a buzz, they remind us that people are thinking of us, or are sending us something important.
But when you are deployed to a war zone, when you are thousands of miles from home, they mean even more.
And if they are sent with love, care, thought…then the effect that a simple box filled with some goodies has is immeasurable. And it’s all in the anticipation. It’s all in the having the box in your hands, on your bed in front of you…the morale boosting moment is just before you open it…it’s lovely yo have the stuff inside, but it’s not in having the stuff. It’s not in having treats and goodies sent from home, it’s in the actual box itself.
Someone at home, thought enough of you to go to the effort of choosing and buying some goodies, packing them, taking them to the Post Office and send them out to you. They went to all that effort. The content isn’t what a box is all about…
But I do often get asked what to put in a box.
After all, even if the content isn’t the most important thing, it’s still nice to send something out that will be used and will be useful and will be welcomed.
So IF YOU HAVE A FRIEND AND RELATIVE WHO IS DEPLOYED TO AFGHAN (and only if you know someone out there – I know that some people want to send parcels out to ‘A Soldier’ or ‘A Marine’ but these aren’t really recommended, as they can clog up the system particularly at a busy time of year like Christmas – if you want to help ‘someone’ out there then you can google charities that have deals with the MOD who send welfare parcels out there) what should you put in a parcel to be sent to them?
Well obviously the best person to ask would be that person themselves. Often they might want something in particular, but be unwilling to ask, thinking they are being a bit greedy, but it does well to ask them…you should have their address, so send them an ebluey to say that you are going to send a parcel and ask if they have any requests. It’s also a good idea to ask them what they DON’T want.
But if you want it to be a surprise…if you want that moral boosting moment to be even better, to get something that you weren’t expecting…then the sender should have a look at the archived BFPO WEBSITE at what shouldn’t be sent out, and HERE for the Frequently Asked Questions about sizes and such.
But what generic things are good ideas to put inside?
Well I can only really speak for myself, but I can also say what wasn’t used out there and what always seemed to end up in the Welfare Box of Spares in the Welfare Tent…
Stuff I liked:
Pringles, nuts, crisps, trail mix, dried fruit in pouches (like mango or apricots), flapjacks, cereal bars. These are the basics to put in. Always welcomed. these can be eaten back in base, and can be stuck into the daysack or pouch and carried on patrol. They also make nice ‘gissits’ to give to the local kids – some of the Afghan children’s parents were (rightly) complaining at the amount of chocolate that was being given out.
Super Noodles, Pot Noodles, savoury rice pouches. Good to send out, especially if the recipient is on rations all the time in a forward Check Point. But to have a check to make sure that they aren’t only for cooking in microwaves. There are a distinct lack of microwaves in patrol bases and check points….
Baby wipes, Zip lock bags, a nice shower gel, moistened toilet paper packets. There is no shortage of shower gels, deodorants, razors, shaving gels, tissues…but a really nice small bottle of something smelly to take to the shower is really, really welcomed. A small bottle of a blokey Moulton Brown shower gel would go down really well! And if you are poo-ing into a bag in a CP, then the value of some of that fancy moistened toilet paper can’t be understated!
Maoams, sherbet dips, sherbet fountains, swizzle lollipops. Blocks of jelly jellied sweeties, like the ubiquitous Hariboos melt into one big blob in a bag in the heat of the Afghan summer, but Maoams…they are the future…
Coffee sachets. Not just a couple of Nescafé sachets you swiped for the office canteen – but some of those posh packets that you get in Starbucks, or even nicer, some of those instant cappuccinos that are popular now. Even some fruit teas would be welcomed.
Things not to bother with: (This might sound ungrateful, it’s not meant to be – its just better for your hard earned cash to be spent on something useful and not just shrugged off and chucked in the ‘Welfare Box’.
Shower gels, toothbrushes, toothpastes, deodorants, rolls of tissues. This sort of stuff is either very personal or else will be sent by close family. Don’t bother sending it out, it’ll really, very likely, just get tossed. At one stage I had four bottles of shower gel stocked up. I ended up donating them to the local Afghan interpreters when I left.
Hariboos, chocolate bars, cereal bars with yogurt or chocolate bases. These just melt. Don’t bother. They’ll just go in the bin. Sadly.
Cup-a-soups. Most people just don’t fancy having a soup in the heat of the Afghan summer, they are a good idea to send in the winter, but but don’t bother in the summer.
Like I said, this list isn’t exhaustible. It’s based on my personal preferences, and what I saw always ending up in the Welfare Box or even in the bin. The things not to bother sending isn’t about being ungrateful, even if it sounds it – I just don’t want you to waste your money on something that will be wasted. And please remember only send a box to a named person THAT YOU KNOW…please don’t send unsolicited boxes out there…if you want to help and support the troops there then there are charities that have special links with the MoD that you can donate too. There’s a link from this page on the British Army website.
The items listed are meant as an idea of what to send to someone who is deployed to a Forward Operating Patrol Base or Check Point. If you have any ideas of other stuff to send out then why not leave them as a comment below?