Students of Hamilton District Christian High School (HDCH) have shown their support for their fellow students in Afghanistan by gathering backpacks filled with school supplies for them.
Last spring Canadian Forces Major Lawrence Hatfield, who had just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, spoke at the school about his experiences on the HDCH Afghanistan Focus Day. He challenged the students to do something to help the Afghani school children.
While millions of Afghan children have returned to school following the collapse of the Taliban regime in late 2001, tens of thousands of school-age youngsters, restricted by economic hardship, must still work on the streets of the Afghan capital, Kabul, to sustain their families, according to a report by the Help Afghan School Children Organization (HASCO).
For those families that are able to send their children to school, many, particularly those who have recently returned from Pakistan and Iran refugee camps, are not able to provide their children with school bags and school necessities such as pens, pencils, and notebooks.
Various groups have taken action to support the Afghan children with a number of initiatives, one of which is to gather and fill backpacks so that the students can do their schoolwork. Other activities include organizing local defense groups to protect students against terrorist attacks, which have already occurred, as well as developing school rehabilitation programs to rebuild schools destroyed by extremist groups.
“Education makes up one of the main pillars of securing a better future for Afghanistan,” states a report by HASCO. “Without educated people it will be extremely difficult, after three decades of destructive war, to rebuild this war-ravaged country and it’s shattered economy.”
The Afghanistan Focus Student Group at HDCH responded to Hatfield’s challenge with a two-week blitz in June, plastering the halls with posters and announcements and encouraging homerooms to rise to the challenge.
Over 75 backpacks were filled with basic school supplies.
“I thought it was really cool that so many people got involved even if it was late in the school year,” said Andrew Scott, a student and member of the focus group.
Hilda and George Clements of Stoney Creek U-Haul supplied packing boxes. Hatfield’s unit, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders arranged shipment to CFB Trenton. From there the backpacks will be flown to Afghanistan on military transport planes and distributed to children in Kabul, Kandahar, and other areas by Canadian Forces personnel.
The HDCH Afghanistan Focus Group is interested in repeating the campaign in the current school year.
“But we want even more response this year,” said student Ryan King. “This is really important.”
— With files from Harry Meester, director of recruitment and advancement, Hamilton District Christian High School