Bazaar school works to brighten future
June 5, 2012
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan. -- At 11 o' clock on a hot Saturday afternoon, Afghan kids ran out of a school and hurried to form a line. Their faces painted with dirt and crayon marks, the kids pushed and shoved one another causing a mini riot.
"Stop fighting or no one will get candy later," said Romanian Army Master Sgt. George Prodan, a morale wellness and recreation staff assistant with Commander, Kandahar Airfield headquarters barked in a loud voice causing erratic hands to stop in mid-air. As the children started the process of washing their hands, choosing a yogurt or fruit, and taking a sample pack of cookies, the Romanian Soldier smiled as calmness had finally set in…if only for another minute or two.
"I like to help the kids because they don't have many things and they deserve all the things we do for them…and not just because they behave well," said Prodan.
Prodan said the Bazaar School has been open for five years at Kandahar Airfield and reaches out to over 50 Afghan children every time the Bazaar opens. The Bazaar is the marketplace where customers can buy merchandise sold by local nationals and parents usually will employ their own children as merchants.
"The parents who're a majority of the shop owners thank us because we take care of their kids while they set up," said Prodan. "The school is important because it may change not only child's view of soldiers, but maybe the parents too."
Each week the Bazaar school opens, International Security Assistance Force Soldiers and officers can contact Prodan to volunteer to work with the Afghan children.
"In some way I think this puts us in touch with the local population and it gives the kids an opportunity to meet people from different countries," said Spc. James Gorman, an intelligence analyst, with the 163rd Military Intelligence Battalion.
Gorman said he had fun playing soccer and interacting with the children, which is a good change of scenery. "Doing this is a good change of pace for me because I work a 12-hour shift every day, so it's a good way to get away from the command for a bit."
All Bazaar school volunteers are ordered to put up their weapons and are encouraged to let loose their inner child once the kids arrive on site. "We're like the Muppets, but with standard operating procedures," said Prodan. "In a lot of ways the boys here remind me of my son and my wife, who's a teacher, is happy I'm doing this." Once word spreads that it's noon, the children start to line up by the exit because they know what time it is. As each child takes two pieces of candy, they say their goodbyes to Prodan and tell him they'll see him next week. "If something like this would've existed twelve years ago, who knows how things might've changed in Kandahar," said Prodan. Who knows Indeed?