A TRIO of Vale mums are marking the end of a five-year campaign to bring comfort to British troops on Afghanistan’s front line.
Barry-based grandmothers and foster carers Bette Sim and Brenda Rees and 47-year-old Rhoose-based friend and mum-of-two Kaye Watts are currently completing the final batch of packages ready to despatch to the war zone – after so far sending out more than 5,500 shoe-boxes filled with basic essentials and treats.
The team are calling their efforts a day following the announcement that troops will soon be withdrawn and return home.
The effort began when Bette, of Jewel Street, heard from son-in-law Daniel Rea, then a Lt commander specialising in bomb disposal, what the conditions were like in September 2009.
Bette, 60, said: “I started sending parcels to them and it took off. It was 50 to 60 a week.
“The need is not there any longer and there’s very few parcels going out now. The boys are coming back.
Bette said the most in demand items had proved to be shower gel, toothpaste, toilet paper and hand sanitiser.
She added: “The American bases had anything and everything – McDonald’s, ice-cream parlours – the British didn’t even have boots or toilet paper in the beginning.
“We were sending funny things at Christmas time – reindeer hats, decorations and Christmas puddings.”
Bette and her team bought items using their own cash and also sent products, donated by Barry shoppers in stores like Morrisons and Fosters, in Holton Road, and Clarks at Culverhouse Cross, collected empty shoeboxes for them.
“Rhoose post office has been absolutely brilliant,” she said. “They let Kaye leave shoe boxes there and did them in their own time.
Troops wrote hundreds of thank you letters which would be displayed in Morrisons before being kept by Bette.
She said: “There were three girls who used to write to us all the time. They were sharing one tent and they really made us laugh.
“We had lovely letters and Christmas cards and flowers on my door and we had some mugs from battalions they were in.
“It’s going to be sad to finish, but my front room is going to be back to normal.
"We are glad they are coming home and that’s the end of it.”
Brenda, 73, added: “It’s been really worthwhile because for some it’s made a difference. We are pleased the need is no longer there.”
If you are able to contribute items for the final boxes, call Bette on 01446 400062 or contact her via her Facebook page.
Items popular with troops include: Marmite, sweets, toiletries without spray pump action, note pads, letters, antibacterial gel, powdered soup/supernoodles and powdered drinks.
Bette is now turning her attention to collecting for the Coffee 4 Craig – named after a 37-year-old dad who lost everything and ended up living on the streets.
Items of use include men and women’s clothing, footwear, socks, new underwear, sleeping bags, blankets, coats, rucksacks, shopping vouchers, tea, coffee, sugar, powdered milk and plastic and tin eating utensils.