Ex-soldier starts charity for refugee children

James Lowry with children in Afghanistan
The schoolteacher hopes to get 1000 people to to donate $1 a week (supplied)

Eight years after witnessing Afghanistan's refugee crisis first hand, an ex-military man is looking to help refugee children coming to New Zealand get ahead with their education.

James Lowry has sparked a new initiative to help educate children whose schooling has been neglected as they've fled war-torn countries.

The Palmerston North schoolteacher hopes to get 1000 people sign up to donate just a $1 a week to his charity, For Better Initiative, developing programmes and resources for refugee children.

As a rifleman with 2nd First Battalion in Bravo Company, Mr Lowry spent six months of 2009 involved in aid projects: delivering resources to schools, reconstructing dams and working on engineering projects.

However it was the children who made the biggest impression.

"Every town we went to, every village, we were flocked by kids and they were asking for one thing - 'pen bakshish', which is, 'Can I please have a pen?'. That, and water. And it's always stuck in my head," he says.

"They wanted a pen to learn or to draw, to have fun. It was their thirst for knowledge that gave me an inkling to be a teacher."

Mr Lowry told Newshub that for many children "the journey to become a refugee is instant".

"Education falls to the wayside and you go where you can. Some refugees end up in camps that have education facilities in them, others aren't as lucky."

He says he saw a gap in the education space that he wants to fill.

"What we're going to do is identify a school, offer that school funding then the teachers can really target the gaps the students may have."

To become a donor or for more information, click here.

Newshub.