Orphaned Afghan boys receive donated school supplies from Corps of Engineers

KABUL The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers paid a visit to some displaced Afghan boys and provided them with much needed school supplies, toys and treats during operation backpack drop, May 8.

Maj. Erica Iverson huddles around students from the Ostad Khalil Ullah Khalili Orphans Education Center after dropping off donated school supplies and toys to the orphaned Afghan boys. (Photo by LaDonna Davis)

The children, ages five to 18, are all considered orphans due to the fact that their parents are either deceased or disabled thus leaving them in the care of relatives.

Each of the 160 students that attend the all-boys Ostad Khalil Ullah Khalili Orphans Education Center located in Kabul received a new backpack filled with pens, paper, pencils, notebooks, crayons, erasers, rulers, sharpeners, toys a puzzle and candy delivered by members of the Afghanistan Engineer District-North

The humanitarian effort was made possible with state side cash donations from a church in Kentucky, and employees from the AED-N Qalaa House totaling $1,600 and donations of toys, books, puzzles and school supplies.

Many of the donations came from AED-N members home districts, like Sharon Schwab from Waynesville, Ohio who is a senior electrical engineer technician over special projects here with the Quality Assurance Branch and deployed from the Huntington, W. Va District Corps of Engineers.

I sent out emails and posted on Facebook that we were looking for puzzle donations, said Schwab.

The result was a puzzle drive from her home district that yielded more than 80 puzzles.

Additionally, Schwabs family and friends also donated puzzles bringing the total number of puzzles to more than 160, enough for each student to receive their own.

Puzzles help the kids learn the design and construction aspect of engineering, Schwab says. Just like a drawing or diagram for building plans, puzzles also have a picture on the box and pieces that they have to put together which gives the students the beginning basis of building something from a picture.

In fact, there were so many supplies and toys donated that it took nearly 20 AED-N Qalaa House members to sort through all the donations, blow up basketballs and soccer balls and pack 160 backpacks.

The Ostad Khalil Ullah Khalili Orphans Education Center was built in 2009 and is funded by the Afghan government. The students take classes in science, computers, reading and arithmetic. But, according to the orphan education center Director, Naqib Jami, finding qualified teachers in Afghanistan is very difficult. Our teachers only make about [the equivalent] $80 American in salary, said Jami. So, it is very hard to find people that have the skills to teach science courses for so little money.

Though the school receives a certain amount of supplies at the beginning of the year, the supplies that AED-N provided will help the schools dollars go even further, possibly making it easier to pay for good teachers.

School supplies are very expensive in the markets, he says. Anytime something is done for the kids it is welcome. We are very happy the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is here to help; we are very appreciative.

Once the volunteers from AED-N arrived at the school, the excitement from the boys and faculty could hardly be contained. Many students offered the only English they knew, thank you, while others gladly posed for pictures and shook hands with the volunteers who placed a bag on their back.

I love the blank notebook for drawing and the color crayons, said Safha Hayty, 13 through a translator. I am very happy with everything we got, it is very useful and we are glad to receive them.

For the AED-N members who participated in the backpack drop, the real reward was the sense of pride and satisfaction that giving much needed supplies to the students and staff provided. Even more special was the operation took place right around Mothers Day, making it a fitting tribute to the volunteers who spent the American Holiday with Afghan children who no longer have parents.

What a rewarding experience to spend Mothers Day with these orphaned Afghan children and present them with a future, said U.S. Army Maj. Erica Iverson from Vermillion, S.D. who is the chief of the Synchronization and Initiatives Group/ Capacity Building Team here deployed from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters in Washington, D.C. these donated school supplies and toys gave these boys smiles that will ensure a quality of life that every child deserves.

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