CAMP PHOENIX, Afghanistan -- Located near a rich, private school in downtown Kabul, one of the poorest schools in the area, Ariana, has been adopted by Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 101st Field Artillery Regiment.
Several boxes of school supplies, including books, crayons, notebooks, pens and pencils, were again donated to the children at the mostly girl school during a humanitarian aid mission Nov. 10.
“The girl schools typically get less funding and less resources and a lot of the people who go to the schools are real poor so their families don’t necessarily have the means of providing them the paper and school supplies expected to be provided,” said 1st Lt. Ric Volp, executive officer, Bravo Battery, 1-101st. “By providing the supplies, we can help them better their education.”
Soldiers from this Massachusetts and Vermont Army National Guard unit have been working with Ariana since May, and with donations from churches and local communities from back home, these Soldiers have been able to create a special relationship with the school.
“The supplies we give them will help benefit their education for being able to do their work,” said Volp. “A lot of the books we gave them are in English so they will help them learn to read and write in English, which will help bring the school girls closer to Americans because of the language they will share.”
Originally walking into a school with tents and benches for classrooms, the goal of the 1-101st was to provide additional space. Since then, with help from the Commanders Emergency Response Program (CERP), these Soldiers have been able to provide three additional large classrooms to assist with overcrowding and have provided the facility school supplies a number of times.
“The facility is very nice now; they take very good care of it and take a lot of pride in it,” said 1st Lt. Ana Monteiro, assistant civil military operations officer, 1-101st. “The students learn in shifts, this school has three, so there is not a lot of room, but we have been able to help assist with the problem and they are very grateful for what we do.”
“We have a good memory of how nice and giving these people are,” said one school teacher. “We thank them very much and appreciate everything they have done for us.”
With the primary focus of providing a better education for Afghans, the 1-101st has put more than $7.1 million toward education projects under CERP. Fourteen new schools have been built and another 19 are in progress.
The 1-101st Soldiers are building schools not only for elementary and high school students, but also schools for Afghan students after graduating high school.
“Out of the 19 schools we currently have under construction, one is a vocational school and another is a civil aviation training institute, where students will learn different jobs at the airport. As soon as they are done, they automatically start working at the airport in Kabul,” said Monteiro.
“I think the schools are one of the best things we can do to fight the insurgencies because so many of the Afghans don’t know what our mission is, they just know what they have heard,” said Volp. “Hopefully by doing a lot of these school projects the kids will start getting a better education and actually be able to make a change in their society.”