School Supplies Bring Smiles to Children
January 23, 2007
CAMP SLAYER, Iraq, Jan. 22, 2007 - An infantry unit from the Kentucky Army National Guard spent the morning of Jan. 14 not patrolling the streets of Baghdad like they usually do, but delivering supplies to local school children.
Soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry Regiment, loaded up an up-armored Light Medium Tactical Vehicle with wooden crates full of backpacks, pencils, pens, rulers and notepads. Then they headed out to the Al Hamdaniyah school with an entourage of Humvees for security.
The troops arrived a little early for school, but it didn't take long for the children to start comi ng in from all directions to greet the soldiers.
The children seemed excited to see the soldiers and asked for pens by pretending they were writing on paper with their hands. While the soldiers interacted with the horde of children they tried to teach them English words, to help with communication.
For the children, they were open to taking whatever the soldiers had to give them whether it was an English word, a smile or better yet, a pen.
"It doesn't matter what you give them they'll take anything," said Spc. Jason Davenport, a medic for Company C and a native of Barbourville, Ky.
The children, with their pants tucked into their socks to keep from getting muddy are willing to take what the soldiers give because they have so little themselves. Their nine-room school house has 310 students, water damage, no electricity, no running w ater, no heat and many of its windows broken out, said Maj. Chris Cline, a civil affairs officer with the unit.
Along with all the damage, there is no money being given to the school to fix the problems.
"The teachers haven't been paid in three months," said Cline a native of Hodgenville, Ky. Despite that, he said the teachers still come in to teach the children who attend the school.
The supplies from U.S. soldiers are the only thing the school has received in months, according to a teacher at the school.
While at the school, troops unloaded the vehicle and played with the children, until it was time for classes to begin. The children filed into the cold classrooms, after collecting their new supplies and waited for the teachers to join them for their studies.
One of the teachers, who spoke through an interpreter , said there is no school being held in many of the more populated areas around Baghdad, due to security issues.
"We need security," the teacher said. "With security, we can make better education."
Security and lack of financial assistance wasn't the only problem the school had; they had children with medical needs.
Davenport assisted two girls who had ailments, but because of the limited resources on hand, he referred them to the Civil Military Operations Center's free medical clinic for local Iraqis.
"It is important for them to know that we are here to help them," said Davenport.
Even though the school is barely operational, 1st Lt. Robert Andersen, a civil affairs officer with the regiment and native of Elizabethtown, Ky, said he was impressed with the number of students still attending.
"For a war going on and so many children to still be in school, it shows that parents do care about the future of their children, which is a good thing," said Andersen.
"We could be here a hundred years and not make a dent if they don't want to help themselves," Davenport noted. He said the teachers' dedication to the children at the Al Hamdaniyah School is an example of what Iraq needs to get back on its feet.