In 2003, Paul Holton was serving as an interrogator for the US Army in Iraq, when he says he came across a young girl crying. She looked to him as though she hadn’t had a bath for a long time. Holton gave her what he had on hand - a toothbrush, toothpaste, some flip-flops, and a stuffed monkey with long arms and Velcro hands; he put that around her neck.
“Just seeing her response, and the smile and the happiness in her face, for me it was just a moment of my gosh, I could do this again and again with all the children I come in contact with,” Holton says. “I could maybe make a difference.”
Since then, Holton has started a non-profit organization called Operation Give. He and his volunteer staff have shipped 150 ocean container loads of supplies to Iraq, Afghanistan and other places in need. Now he says there is real need in Iraq for those who are fleeing from ISIS, as it continues to gain control of more territory.
“A lot of people have been murdered. A lot of women and children have been sold into slavery. Thousands of other people have been afraid, and fearing for their lives, they’ve had to on foot in many cases flee ahead of the terrorists,” Holton says.
He estimates that 2 million people have been displaced, and 700,000 are staying in refugee camps in Kurdish territory. Operation Give is holding a donation drive on July 22nd at Fishbowl Inventory in Orem. At the end of the month, they plan to send school, hygiene and first-aid supplies to the camps. Organizers say the most requested items are soccer balls and uniforms.