By Pfc. Bailey Anne Jester, MND-B PAOJune 22, 2009
BAGHDAD- Iraqi children in northeast Baghdad now have a new place to play, thanks to the efforts of Iraqi and U.S engineers.
Both were on hand in the Adhamiyah district of Baghdad for the opening of the al-Jazeera gymnasium, June 6.
"This gym provides the children in the neighborhood a place to enjoy sports without having to play in the streets. Many parents will enjoy seeing their children participate in organized team sports, something the people of Iraq have never had," said Mobile, Ala. Native, Inez Bergerson, civil engineer for the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
The gymnasium will not only help keep children off the streets, but will keep them indoors, supervised and safe, said Dallas, Texas native, U.S. Navy Lt. Erwin Rico, officer in charge of the USACE office responsible for the Rusafa area.
Engineers designed the al -Jazeera gymnasium for a capacity of 250 people with funding from the Iraqi Transition Assistance Office (ITAO), with the U.S. Department of State.
"This $1.2 million project won't be neglected," believes Stockton, Calif. Native, Glen Keiser, team leader for the embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team III. "The Ministry of Youth and Sport has showed support for this project and has stated that they know it is up to them to take care of it."
Similar facilities provide services that build inspiration and pride for young people and may help change the welfare of the community, said Bergerson.
Without the help of an Iraqi construction service, the gymnasium would not have been possible and the children would still be playing in the streets, stated Bergerson.
Bergerson believes that the greatest difficulty in building the gym was the reconstruction of the roof. Contractors welded the pieces on site and hoisted them up one by one.
"It was a frightening process, but they did a spectacular job, I applaud them," Bergerson added.
Sports teams of Tai Kwan Do, volleyball, basketball and soccer have already been organized and practicing. Activities are being scheduled to begin within the next month.
The Adhamiyah area currently has another gymnasium under construction , with completion scheduled for next month.