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    Summer camp offers hope and opportunity for Iraqi children

    Summer camp offers hope and opportunity for Iraqi children

    Photo By Sgt. Adrian Muehe | Two girls perform a skit during a drama class at Summer Camp for Kids, a program...... read more read more



    Story by Pfc. Adrian Muehe 

    1-2 SBCT, 7th Infantry Division

    DIYALA, Iraq — It’s summertime in Diyala province, Iraq. While school is out so is the sun, and many children are seen playing outside all over the province. For a few, their summer experience will be quite different this year as they are attending a Summer Camp for Kids. This program is organized by the Red Crescent, the Middle East’s equivalent to the Red Cross, and designed for the orphans and special-needs children of Diyala province from June 1 to July 31.

    There are camps set up throughout the province in the cities of Baqubah, Muqdadiyah, Balad Ruz, and Al-Abarra. To assist the Red Crescent and to show their support, Soldiers from 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, delivered soccer balls and school supplies to the children at the Baqubah camp, June 9.

    “We mixed students from all five qadas [a region comparable to a county in the U.S.],” said Hazim Sarraj, Red Crescent director for Diyala province. “We mix different ethnicities, different sects, different colors, Kurdish, Arabic, Sunni, Shia, we bring all these people here to Baqubah.”

    While the program is designed for orphans, camp administrators invite children who are talented in arts, or who excel in class, to the camp to enhance their skills. While attending, young ones participate in many activities and classes such as drawing, music, drama, and English.

    “I can’t imagine elementary age kids in America learning Arabic this good,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Joe Dallas, command sergeant major of 5/20 Inf., after hearing a demonstration during an English class at the camp.

    Attendees also take time out of their academic studies to play sports and mingle with other children in the camp every afternoon. A courtyard complete with soccer goals, a basketball hoop, volleyball court, and ping pong tables lies in the middle of the classrooms.

    “We have new developments every day,” said Mr. Hazim. “We meet every week to come up with new activities for the kids.”

    This is the first year a summer camp is offered to the children, and the Red Crescent is taking action to work with the Ministry of Education to implement this as a permanent program led by the Government of Iraq in the future.

    “We [the Red Crescent] are a social organization, not an education organization,” said Mr. Hazim. “We were chosen to organize it this year because of our reputation with other programs around Diyala.”

    According to Mr. Hazim, the future of this program, although uncertain, does look hopeful. So far they have received recognition for their curriculum from the Education Directorate of Diyala as well as Diyala University.

    The Soldiers of 5/20 Inf. played no role in establishing or running the camp, but assisted the Red Crescent by delivering gifts from another group of kids.

    “The soccer balls and school supplies were sent to us from schools all across the United States,” said Lt. Col. Mitch Rambin, commander of 5/20 Inf. “It’s a way for kids back home to show their appreciation for the challenges these kids have had to go through in the past seven years, being in a war torn country and losing parents to sectarian violence. It’s not fair, no kid should ever have to go through that.”

    After the Soldiers delivered the gifts they took a guided tour of the facilities. Many children preformed demonstrations to show what they’ve learn to the visitors. Many of the Soldiers were impressed. A few even stated that the curriculum seemed more fun than summer camps they went to as children.

    “If I was a kid growing up in Baqubah, I would definitely want to come here,” exclaimed Capt. Brett Sim, of Buffalo, N.Y., and the fire support officer for 5/20 Inf.

    The Summer Camp for Kids not only encourages children to be creative, learn new skills and participate in fun activities, it also enables young boys and girls to walk away with something they may have not had in their lives before, hope.

    A guest speaker visits the students each week to speak of their own personal experience in overcoming specific challenges to help foster a sense of optimism within these young children.

    “Today they had a doctor come speak to them who grew up as an orphan,” said Lt. Col. Rambin. “This is a way to show them that even being an orphan, there is a still a future for them.”



    Date Taken: 06.11.2010
    Date Posted: 06.11.2010 12:34
    Story ID: 51252
    Location: DIYALA, IQ

    Web Views: 429
    Downloads: 387