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'Win the Peace' coalition delivers hope for future

AFPN

Release Date: 3/11/2004

by Capt. Timothy Perez 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

3/11/2004 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- More than 200 students at a school outside Nasiriya, Iraq, received a surprise delivery of school supplies donated by "Win the Peace." WTP is an unofficial, organization made up of Airmen with the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing at a forward-deployed location.

The group raised funds for the shipment from Airmen here in December. They were able to purchase the supplies at discount prices from local vendors who were interested in contributing to the program.

More than 200 backpacks filled with paper, pencils, pens, erasers, calculators and other necessities were given to the children. Teachers also received a box containing soccer balls, various games and other recreational equipment.

Other items were donated by an elementary school at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn., and the 9th Medical Group at Beale AFB, Calif.

The delivery was a coalition effort with Italian air force officials volunteering to fly the supplies from here to Tallil Air Base, Iraq. Coalition Provisional Authority officials, U.S. Army civil affairs Soldiers and British soldiers then took the items to Qurtabah Elementary School and a nearby facility.

"This is a generous offer by the American force to give these gifts for students," said Jassem Mohmed Hasson, an Iraqi education development specialist. "These gifts will help the students in their studies and encourage them to do their best."

He said the donations "will make the relationship between the Iraqi people and the Americans very strong, and also, that (they) will give students hope to study because the students were suffering during the previous regime of Saddam Hussein."

Iraqi schools lack modern equipment in their classrooms, he said. Classrooms at Qurtabah have bench seats and tables for students. On one wall, there is a blackboard and some chalk. There are no lights, heat or air conditioning.

With 210 children studying math, reading, art, grammar, geography, history and science besides the English and Arabic languages, Kaleel Ebrahim Motlakh, the school's head master, said he has his hands full.

"We hope to do the best for the students," he said. "For example, they need a laboratory to learn technical classes or to learn applied classes, and also they need some enjoyment when they are studying.

"After the war, they are just reading and writing," he said. "They don't have any equipment for enjoyment, such as laboratories, a classroom for drawing or athletic equipment. That could help them develop their skills."

Win the Peace has been active in the 380th AEW since May, and this is the third shipment made to Iraq since October. The previous two were sent to schools outside Kirkuk AB.

"I'm excited about what Win the Peace has done here," said Col. Patrick Sheets, 380th AEW commander. "While the troops in Iraq fight terrorism on the ground Win the Peace brings that fight to the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people."

The organization continues to raise money and plans to send another shipment soon.

"This is a program that has done some great work, and I would like to see [it] continue though the following (air and space expeditionary force) cycles," Colonel Sheets said. (Tech. Sgt. Bob Oldham of the 407th Air Expeditionary Group Pubic Affairs contributed to this report)



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