Beef jerky, DVDs and phone cards |

Beef jerky, DVDs and phone cards

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyDanielle Towle's second graders show off the letters they have written to send to their classmate Louis Van Beek's father, who is working in Afghanistan.

AVON ” Schools are targets in Afghanistan, and so are the teachers.

Many of the people can’t read or write, and the Taliban likes it that way, said James Van Beek, an Eagle County resident who’s currently training police officers in Afghanistan.

Coaking the masses in ignorance is one way the Taliban holds power, he said.

Van Beek, now a private contractor who used to work for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Department, is hoping people back home can help out with donations of school supplies, among other things, because so much has been destroyed, and simple things like notepads and pencils can be expensive and hard to find.

“The schools were devastated throughout the country with the insurgency going on, and the people they target are the school teachers,” Van Beek said. “Libraries were destroyed too, so simple English books are helpful too.”

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Louis Van Beek, one of James’ two sons, is a fifth grader at Stone Creek Elementary. He and several other students and teachers at Stone Creek are helping round up a big care package to send to his father and some of the troops stationed in Afghanistan.

They’re asking for things like school supplies and winter clothes for the Afghanis. It can get pretty cold, electricity is sporadic and kids are bundling up in rags.

The school is also asking for snack food like nuts and beef jerky and toiletries like shampoo for the troops. James Van Beek often helps distribute care packages to the troops.

Stone Creek has placed collection boxes at the Avon City Market, the Eagle City Market, the Eagle Pharmacy and the Village Market. So far, the boxes haven’t been filling, and the only donations have been by parents at Stone Creek.

“They’re usually empty,” said Louis Van Beek.

The group initially wanted to send the package before spring break, but not enough donations came in, said art teacher Lynne Perry. So, they’ve decided to extend the collection to April 30.

Many of Perry’s students are also writing letters to soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Wondering how you’re doing. You’re protecting me and I’m thankful for that,” reads one letter. Perry said a lot of them bring tears to her eyes.

James Van Beek said those care packages and letters really make a lot of difference for the troops and helps keep their spirits up.

Perry said the school raised more than $800 with a bake sale to pay for the shipping.

Getting a traffic ticket in Afghanistan could be an hour-long affair.

Afghani police aren’t used to delegating authority, Van Beek said, so that means if an officer pulls over someone for something simple like a traffic ticket, they have to hold them there until a supervisor comes around.

“Only one person makes a decision for everyone, instead of trusting good people in different areas to make decisions and keep the higher ups briefed,” Van Beek said. “We’re showing them how to do that all the way down, and the patrol officers are learning to take the initiative to do what needs to be done, instead of getting permission every time.”

Another big problem with the police force is a lack of education, he said.

“Probably 75 percent of the overall force is illiterate, but many are starting to take basic literacy classes,” Van Beek said. “It’s more effective when you have well-educated and trained people down at the street level. We’re getting them to raise their professionalism.”

Van Beek says he feels relatively safe when he’s at one of their base camps, but when they have to drive somewhere, it can be a little nerve-wracking.

“There’s a lot of danger, a lot of threats constantly going around, bombs on the side of the road,” Van Beek Said. “You can’t let your guard down anywhere.”

Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or

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