War on Terrorism

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Soldiers Help Afghan Children, One Backpack at a Time

American Forces Press Service

Oct. 15, 2009 - In a country where fewer than 30 percent of people are considered literate, U.S. forces are working to help in rebuilding Afghanistan's education system, which has been devastated from 30 years of war, anti-education politics and an unstable government. U.S. forces are building schools for boys and girls as they attempt to re-establish the education system. The Army's 649th Regional Support Group here is working with the local community to provide school supplies for teachers and students in Kandahar province.

"There is nothing more rewarding than watching a child learn," said Iowa native Army 2nd Lt. Shaela Bresnan, Backpacks for Afghanistan program coordinator. "Unfortunately, children here lack the opportunities to educate themselves. Even when they have access to a school that they are able to attend, they do not have the physical resources to get the most out of their education."

Soldiers with the 649th started the Backpacks for Afghanistan program in August to meet the needs of students and teachers. Local students will receive backpacks with five pencils, three pens, two colored pencils, a pencil sharpener, two erasers, two notebooks and two folders. A kit also will be available for teachers with classroom materials such as world maps, construction paper and small chalkboards.

"When I was a little boy, if someone had given me a pen instead of a gun, this country would be a better place," said Afghan Col. Haji Toor Jan, Afghanistan National Police security commander of civil affairs.

The 649th has set a goal to collect 5,000 backpacks and 200 teacher kits in six months. "We hope to reach as many students as possible within the Kandahar, Afghanistan, area," Bresnan said.

Soldiers with the 649th plan to supply every student attending one of the new or refurbished schools in southern Afghanistan with supplies, Bresnan said. Afghan forces will distribute school supplies to areas without a coalition presence.

"The program is very good for our future," said Toor Jan. "Our people will one day have doctors, pilots and engineers. This will be our future. "

Backpacks for Afghanistan allows everyone to participate in building a future for generations. Many U.S. organizations, including churches and schools, already have donated.

"If you change the life of a child, you change the world," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Elaine Holten, a Backpacks for Afghanistan organizer from Florida.

(From a U.S. Forces Afghanistan news release.)

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