Tag Archive | "Iraq"

Marking Anniversary of a Soldier’s Death

Tags: ,


While one family will be in Virginia this week receiving the Navy Cross posthumously awarded their son, another Sag Harbor family will be marking the one year anniversary of the day Orlando Perez was shot dead by a sniper while protecting his comrades in the Stryker Cavalry Regiment stationed in Baghdad.

SPC Orlando A. Perez, whose mother, Nicolasa Arevalo, and sister, Angelica Marta — a Junior at Pierson High School — moved to Sag Harbor seven years ago, was killed as he climbed to the roof of a building overlooking the narrow streets of Baghdad on February 24 of last year. He had been in Sag Harbor only two weeks earlier on leave, where he spent a week visiting his mother and sister as he had done frequently, then returned home to his native Houston, where he spent a week with his wife before returning to active duty.

“Whenever he had relief from the Army he would come to visit,” said his sister during an interview recently. “We would go to Long Beach and take long walks,” she said.

“I remember taking his picture by the Civil War monument, and also when the Nativity scene was up at Christmas,” she added.

SPC Perez returned to Baghdad on February 18, and his mother remembers getting a call from him the following day, apologizing for the fact he would not be able to call her on her birthday, February 20.

“’I’ll be helping to guard my squad as they move into another building,’” his mother remembered him saying.

As the squad continued to move its headquarters on the morning of February 24, SPC Perez climbed a set of stairs leading up to the roof of a building where he would be able to have a better view of the street, while keeping an eye on the squad below.

As Perez reached the top of the stairs and was stepping onto the roof, his mother related, a shot from a sniper sent him tumbling back down.

He was helicoptered out, but was pronounced dead a short while later.

For his actions, SPC Perez, who was 24 years old when he was killed, has been awarded, posthumously, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Army Commendation. In addition, SPC Perez, who was a member of F Co., 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, received the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Ribbon and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.

SPC Perez enlisted in the Army on August 25, 2005, and was assigned to D Co., 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment at Ft. Benning, Ga. in January 2006. He served in Germany for one year before being assigned to duty in Iraq in 2007.

In addition to his wife, April, mother and sister, he was survived by a brother, Edward Marta, a 2007 Pierson graduate.

 

L/Cpl Jordan Haerter to Receive Navy Cross Posthumously

Tags: , , ,


The Secretary of the Navy, Donald C. Winter, is scheduled to present Navy Cross medals, posthumously, to Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter, from Sag Harbor, N.Y., and Cpl. Jonathan T. Yale, from Burkeville, Va., at a ceremony February 20 at the National Museum of the Marine Corps near Quantico, Va.

The Navy Cross is the highest medal for valor awarded by the Department of the Navy and across the armed forces is second only to the Medal of Honor. To date, 25 Navy Crosses have been awarded in the Global War on Terror.

Haerter and Yale were infantrymen assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, serving with 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, and 2nd Bn., 8th Marines, respectively, and were killed in action while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The morning of April 22, 2008, according to Haerter and Yale’s personal award recommendations, a truck began to rapidly negotiate the obstacles leading to an entry control point in Ramadi, Iraq, where Haerter and Yale were standing post. The two Marines quickly recognized the threat a suicide bomber driving a truck capable of carrying a large quantity of explosives posed to the Marines and Iraqi policeman in the area and engaged the truck with precise fire.

As a result of their actions, the truck stopped a few feet from their positions and the suicide bomber detonated the approximately 2,000 pounds of explosives in the truck, leveling the entry control point and mortally wounding the two Marines.

“The explosion blew out all of the windows over 150 meters from where the blast hit,” said Lance Cpl. Benjamin Tupaj, a rifleman with 3rd Platoon, Weapons Company, 1st Bn., 9th Marines. “They saved all of our lives, if it wasn’t for them that gate probably wouldn’t have held. If that truck had made it into the compound, there would’ve been a lot more casualties. They saved everyone’s life here.”

Haerter and Yale’s personal award recommendations credit them with saving the lives of 50 Marines and Iraqi policemen.

 

Bus to Quantico

On Friday, February 20, a chartered bus will travel from Sag Harbor to the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia, Quantico Marine Base where LCpl Jordan C. Haerter, USMC along with Cpl. Jonathan T. Yale will be posthumously awarded the Navy Cross with Extraordinary Heroism.

For Sag Harbor residents interested in attending the ceremony, a Hampton Jitney chartered bus, will depart from Pierson High School parking lot, 200 Jermain Ave, Sag Harbor at 2 a.m. on Friday, February 20. Additional pick-up locations will be at the “Park and Ride” Exit 49 on the Long Island Expressway, Route 110 Huntington and another stop is at Bryant Park in New York City between 40th and 42nd streets and 5th and 6th Avenues. The ceremony is at 11 a.m. in the museum’s Leatherneck Gallery. A free guided tour of the museum is available following the ceremony. The return trip will bring riders back to their boarding locations, reaching Sag Harbor at 2 a.m. on Saturday.

The Suffolk Police Veterans Association has donated the entire cost of the charter — the bus ride and museum admission is now free to all veterans and friends who would like to attend the ceremony honoring Haerter and Yale.

Those interested in making the trip should contact Jordan’s Mom, JoAnn Lyles, at 725-1788 or 996-3291. She can also be reached at sagfolks@optonline.net.

 

 

A History of the Navy Cross

The years of the “Great War” were not easy ones for the men and women in the naval service. The Herculean task of transporting and escorting the hundreds of thousands of troops of the American Expeditionary Force to Europe, the growing pains of fielding new aviation and submarine elements and the savage fighting of sailors and Marines on battlefields across France all lay at the feet of the naval service. Along with this came an increase in the size of the naval service to its largest at that time, and the task of working hand-in-hand with Allied counterparts.

New to this experience was the European custom of one nation decorating heroes of another nation. The United States, with the Medal of Honor as its sole decoration, was caught unprepared not only for this custom, but also had no appropriate award to recognize heroism of a level less than that which would merit the Medal of Honor and no decoration to reward the myriad acts of meritorious non-combat service that the war would spur.

The U.S. Army shared this dilemma and with the aid of President Woodrow Wilson and the Congress in early and mid-1918 instituted its Distinguished Service Cross and Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) with clear guidelines for the award of the Distinguished Service Cross for combat heroism and the DSM award for distinguished non-combat duty in a position of great responsibility. This pair was available in time for awarding during World War I.

Parallel awards were created a year later for the Navy and Marine Corps, months after the armistice and amid the massive demobilization of forces.

No prouder decorations exist today than the Navy Cross and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, but their creation and early award were fraught with controversy, ambiguity and confusion.

As enacted February 4, 1919, the Navy Cross was the naval services third-highest award and could be awarded for both combat heroism and for other distinguished service. Many, for instance, were earned for extraordinary diving and salvage feats. As originally third in precedence behind the Medal or Honor and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, more than one Navy Cross recipient regarded its award as a “snub” in lieu of the Distinguished Service Medal.

The same act established the Distinguished Service Medal. Both decorations could be awarded retroactive to April 6, 1917. It would be 23 years and a August 7, 1942 action by Congress that would place the Navy Cross just beneath the Medal of Honor, and limit its award to combat-only recognition.

The Navy Cross was designed by James Earle Fraser, a distinguished sculptor, member of the nation’s Fine Arts Commission and designer of the obverse of the Victory Medal and an early version of the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. The Navy Cross’ arguable resemblance to Great Britain’s Navy Distinguished Service Cross is noteworthy, but not elaborated upon in any records. Fraser experimented with the image of a World War I-era destroyer on the medal, but finally opted for the more timeless, flowing lines of a 15th-century caraval or sailing ship.

Subtle variations have marked the evolution of the Navy Cross from 1919 to the present. One constant has been the actual medal, which has been struck from the same die and is of three-part construction: the cross itself and the front and back medallions, which are struck separately and subsequently soldered together. Current forgers almost always strike their fakes in one piece, allowing the studied eye one method of detecting frauds

The earliest issues of the Navy Cross (1919-1928) had a very narrow white stripe centered on the blue ribbon and a planchet of dull, sometimes greenish bronze. Some were awarded with the planchet reversed, the sailing ship being placed on the back and the crossed anchors and “USN” on the front. A split broach with an open-pin catch was used.

Later issues (1928-1941) had the customary 1/4-inch white stripe and a somewhat darker, gunmetal bronze finish.

One legendary variation picked up the informal nickname “Black Widow” and was in use about 1941-1942, in which the medal itself and its wrap broach were over-anodized and sported a very dark, even black finish. Ironically, many of the “Black Widow” awards were posthumous.

Midway through World War II, contracts specified the original dull bronze finish seen in the years since.

Presently, the Navy Cross is awarded to a person who distinguishes himself or herself by extraordinary heroism not justifying the award of the Medal of Honor. To warrant this distinctive decoration, the act or the execution of duty must be performed in the presence of great danger or at great personal risk.

 

 

Iraqi Refugees Celebrate Christmas in Noyac

Tags: ,


by Jim Marquardt

 “Oh yes, Christmas dinner with your family would be wonderful. We just don’t eat pork, but we will like anything else you serve…No, Muslims don’t drink wine or any other alcohol…We would be happy to be with you. Thank you. Thank you.”

Early in the afternoon on Christmas Day we drove 33-year old Firas, his younger brother Ali and their mother Malkia to our house. At the door Firas asked, “Should we take off our shoes?” Not a bad custom, but we said “Not necessary.” Firas proudly presented my wife Ann with a bag of Starbucks Coffee. Malkia wore a black head scarf called a “hijab” and we were afraid our grandchildren — five, three and two-years old — might be uneasy, but they were more interested in riding a plastic roller coaster than in noticing our Iraqi guests.

Because Firas had worked in Baghdad as an engineer for Bechtel, an American company, Al Qaeda killed one of his brothers, mistaking him for Firas, then kidnapped and killed his father. A surviving sister and brother are still in Iraq with their spouses and Malkia’s grandchildren. Whenever our two-year old grandson Sam went near her, Malkia smiled and finally he let her kiss and hug him. Firas told me that when they arrived in America last spring, his mother cried for weeks.

Before the Iraqi family joined us on Christmas, we thought about the strangeness and isolation of coming to America from Iraq, through Syria where Firas had fled, and being dropped down in North Haven. They lived for several months with Marie Maciak, a film-maker and instructor at the Ross School. Firas had worked for her as a translator in Damascus and she fought through a bureaucratic maze to gain refugee status for him, Ali and Malkia. They recently moved to a small cottage in Sag Harbor but must leave it before summer and are looking for a permanent place they can afford.

A couple of months ago we drove to the Suffolk County Social Service office in Riverhead to fill out Medicaid forms. Several uniformed officers kept watch in a large room where men and women, some with children, sat waiting to be interviewed. Others lined up at windows labeled “Medicaid Applications” or “Public Assistance.”  A large sign on the wall said, “NO weapons, threats, cursing, alcohol or drugs, or disorderly conduct. Persons violating these rules will not be able to conduct their business for the day and may be subject to removal from the building.”            

Christmas dinner went well and we were pleased when Malkia felt comfortable enough to accept a second helping. Firas is determined to support his family without charitable assistance. He works part-time at Ross School and teaches Arabic classes while Malkia opens boxes in the storage room at TJ Max. She gets a ride to the food pantry at the Whaler’s Church on Tuesday and stretches the food for a week. Twenty-three year old Ali was a welder in Iraq, but lack of transportation makes it difficult for him to find work. He is gradually picking up English which Firas tells him is needed for life in America.

Malkia wants to return to Iraq, despite the dangers that remain, mostly because she desperately misses her grandchildren. She also suffers from the winter cold and would like to have access to a mosque where she could pray.

Firas told us that despite what we may have read in the media, life in Iraq before the “invasion” was quite normal. Healthcare and education were free, and Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds lived peacefully side by side. Intermarriage was unremarkable. He says that after the occupation, American civil authorities decided to allocate seats in the new parliament based on ethnic percentages. In his opinion this created rivalry among the Iraqis, and Al Qaeda exploited it to inflame the insurgency.

In unguarded moments Firas reveals ambivalent feelings about the war. While still in Iraq he had a friend who was held on unspecified charges in Abu Ghraib Prison. When the friend was released he showed Firas numerous wounds on his body from dog bites. Firas says, “He went a little crazy after that.” Firas exchanges emails with people in Iraq who tell him that the ”shoe thrower” has become a national hero.

But Firas suppresses such critical thoughts and talks more about his warmhearted feelings for Americans. He is amazed by the number of people in our community who have reached out to help him and his family. He contrasts this experience with that of Iraqi refugees he hears from in Sweden and Norway who say Arabs are discriminated against in those countries.

Asked what he likes most about the U.S., he says “your organization.” As simple a thing as busses and trains that run on schedules, which we take for granted, impresses him. (Apparently he hasn’t traveled on the LIRR too often.) Social services may entail miles of red tape but they eventually seem to accomplish results. Firas holds a master’s degree in environmental engineering from an Iraqi university and his ambition is to become a licensed engineer in the U.S. Through research on the Internet and phone calls to helpful educators and trade associations, he has learned the steps needed to achieve his goal.

Our adult children and their spouses talked to him about “networking” and using the Internet as a way to find someone who may know someone who may know of a job that fits his resume, while he works towards engineering certification. Unfortunately the Iraqis arrived in the U.S. in the middle of our economic turmoil. Sitting together after dinner, with the grandkids back on the roller coaster, we encouraged Firas not to give up, that most refugees in our history had to struggle through equally tough challenges. He knows it won’t be easy but he is eager to become part of the great American immigrant story. Despite all the problems ahead, his face lights up when he says that he and Ali and Malkia all love our new president.

Seeking a New Life to Heal the Wounds of War

Tags: ,


Navigating the red tape of governmental agencies is something no one enjoys, but for Firas Al-Kahlidi, a 32-year-old Iraqi refugee who arrived on the East End two weeks ago with his mother, Malkia, and brother, Ali, the process is baffling.

“What is this number for?” Firas asks after a visit to Riverhead to apply for his social security card. “Who do I give it to?”

It’s just one of Firas’ many questions. An environmental engineer who worked for the American firm Bechtel in Baghdad until the murders of both his younger brother and father drove him and his family to Syria, Firas must find a way to support Malkia, 57, and Ali, 23, neither of whom speak English.

The Al-Kahlidi family is currently staying in North Haven with Ross School filmmaker and teacher Maria Maciak. Maciak met Firas in Damascus last summer while making a documentary on the plight of Iraqi refugees in Syria. Fluent in English, he became her translator and a main subject in her film. When she left, Marie told Firas that she would do what she could to help the family relocate to the United States.

The family applied for admission to the U.S. through the UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) and Marie and her students wrote letters and petitions on their behalf. Marie is now the “anchor family” for the Al-Kahlidis until they are able to manage on their own. Earlier this week, the family sat down to talk about life in Iraq before and after the U.S. invasion.

“Before we were living just like every other human being,” explained Firas. “We do picnics, go shopping, had our jobs, relatives, do anything we would like just as you are doing here in the States.”

“There was safety,” added Malkia. “We went to work, shopping it was normal.”

But after the invasion, Malkia notes, that sense of security was gone.

“It was fear, people killing, stealing,” she said.

Firas was finishing his master’s degree in environmental engineering at the time. He graduated the day before the war began.

“It was the 19th of March 2003, one day before war exactly,” he said. “I received two papers — one from the Iraqi union to correct my bachelor to masters degree. The second was to join the military. The next day there was just a war. No life, just bombing and attacking.”

Firas  managed to find work with a British firm in the petroleum fields. Then he joined Bechtel, one of the largest U.S. contractors in Iraq, as an engineer.

“I spent 16 or 17 months inside the Green Zone,” said Firas. “In the beginning of 2004, everything was cool. There was no danger to work with Americans. Sometimes when I left the Green Zone, I would forget to remove my badge and was still wearing it. It wasn’t a big deal then.”

But at the end of 2004, Firas noted that the situation became far more complicated.

“Governmental and political issues happened and everything turned bad,” he said. “We start to hide our badges, keep mouth shut. When going to work, for 30 or 40 minutes we wander so no one follow.”

What changed, noted Firas were the militias. The difficulties, he said, began when the Americans doled out power to the three groups – Sunni, Shi’a and Kurds. Because no one from the Bath party, Saddam’s party, was allowed responsibility, those who had been running the country were removed from their jobs.

“The state controlled everything, then the responsibilities went to those three,” said Firas. “The conflict starts at this part.”

On September 10, 2006, Firas received a threat in the form of a handwritten letter found in the family’s garage by his father, Razzaq, that demanded Firas quit his job with the Ameircans. It was signed “Al Qaeda.”

“They asked me to prove I quit by raising a white flag over house,” he said.

Whether the letter actually was from Al Qaeda, Firas never knew. But he quit Bechtel and moved into his uncle’s home north of Baghdad.

“My brother, Muhanni, was driving my car. When returning to home, my father and two brothers heard a shotgun in front of our house and run outside.” They didn’t imagine it had been their brother who had gotten hit. They opened the door and took him to the hospital but it was too late.

Muhanni, 29, was married with a child. His wife and child, now six, still live in Baghdad with his widow’s mother.

Not long afterwards, Firas’ uncle’s home was broken into and he had to stay with a friend. On December 10, 2006, he fled to Damascus.

Then in April of 2007, his father and a friend were kidnapped while Razzaq was visiting the friend.

“A militia had taken them,” said Firas.

Twenty-four days and another threat later, Malkia and Ali found a photo of Razzaq on a computer at a morgue.

“They had shot him,” said Firas. “I saw the description, two bullets in his face and two in his back.”

They also found a photo of the friend.

In fall of 2007, Firas had Ali and Malkia joined him and they applied for asylum as a family. Another brother and sister still remain in Iraq and are living with their own families.

“It was a full year of paperwork and interviews until we get here,” said Firas. “You have no idea how many petitions Marie did for me to the government with the help of her students and faculty. To make the petition not only helped practically, but almost emotionally.”

And now that they are here, Firas is anxious to figure out his next move.

“We’re lost in this new community,” he confided. “We feel we are a burden on this family and this house. Marie’s place is wonderful. But I need a job, people dealing with me as an engineer to work, not just feeling sympathy.”

Still, Firas knows how lucky he is to be here at all. Most of the 5,000 Iraqis that have made it to the U.S. did so only in 2008.

“The number of Iraqi immigrants accepted by the U.S. is less than 30 percent of what has been accepted by Sweden,” noted Firas. Syria, by contrast, has taken in 1.5 million Iraqi refugees.

 Photo: Ali, Firas and Malkia in North Haven with the letter from “al Qaeda” demanding that Firas quit his job with Americans in Baghdad.

A. Hinkle photo

 

Marie Maciak

Tags: ,


 

A filmmaker and teacher at the Ross School who traveled to Damascus, Syria last summer to film the testimonies of many Iraqi refugees living there. Among them was Firas Al-Kahlidi who just this week, relocated with his mother, Malkia, and brother, Ali, to Sag Harbor to begin a new life. They are currently staying with Maciak  — their “Anchor family” — in her North Haven home.

 

What led you to travel to Damascus to make this documentary?

I was sponsoring the human rights club at Ross. We were following the plight of the increasing number of refugees in the world. The students asked if I could bring someone to speak when we were commemorating national Human Rights Day. Through a local contact, last summer I met Alaa Majeed, an Iraqi reporter in New York who worked as a translator for foreign correspondents covering the war.

She said, ‘Have you been to the Middle East?’ She said, ‘Why not? Are you going to believe all this scary news? Are you afraid to go? Her brother had escaped from Baghdad and gone to Syria. She said, ‘Why not go and speak to him directly. You have summer off and you have a camera.’

She challenged me. I thought, why not? My daughter is away for the summer. Within two weeks I had a visa in hand.

 

Firas, who is fluent in English, acted as your translator and field producer while you were filming in Damascus. How did you meet him and what was it about him that impressed you?

I was filming refugees and living with Alaa’s family in an area populated by a high number of refugees. Firas was the roommate of Alaa’s brother.

As a documentary filmmaker I was drawn to the way he was expressing what is happening — with integrity, directness and his ability to explain and translate cultural differences and nuances. It’s a rare talent to understand the American western perspective and translate the nuances of slang, dialect and other very subtle things that maybe others couldn’t express. He was very respected in the community, this allowed me to gain trust from people I was interviewing and record very sensitive stories. He eventually became a main character in my film.

 

Can you briefly tell me Firas’ story? Why were he and his family forced to leave Baghdad?

Firas has a masters degree in environmental engineering so he was hired by Bechtel, who has many contracts in Iraq. He oversaw and trained other engineers including those from the U.S. He was happy in his job and was also teaching at the university.

As all Iraqis who work for foreign companies, he then was labeled a traitor working for the invaders, the occupiers. Though his job was to help the country, designing water systems and other projects to address environmental issues, still, once you work for a foreign group you are labeled by extremists.

They have a saying, ‘After the first two weeks working for a foreigner you have to constantly watch your back.’ Firas worked for them for two years. He was threatened and his family did everything to hide him.

The militant groups, who introduced themselves as Al Qaeda, murdered his younger brother two years ago. His parents got him out of Iraq into Syria, then the father was kidnapped seven months later. His mother and brother stayed in Baghdad until his body was found last September. Then they joined Firas in Damascus.

 

What was life like for the family in Damascus?

The Iraqi community is very mixed. They live in very small, cramped apartments, because the rental prices are going up. They have no permits to work, so many don’t get paid at the end of jobs. When they complain, employers threaten to report them to the police. They have no rights and are treated in a very disrespectful manner. They are spending their savings waiting for their resettlement cases and not knowing.

Firas tried to get into several other countries, but couldn’t. Right away when I met Firas I said, ‘Try to resettle in the U.S.’ His dream is to go to Penn State to finish his education. I said, ‘Whatever I can do to help you, use my name and address and my school.’ I said I would be more than willing to be involved.

 

Last Friday, the family arrived in the U.S. after processing through the offices of several organizations including the UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees), Homeland Security and the International Organization for Migration. What was your role in helping to bring the family here?

I don’t know if it helped, but the Ross students and teachers sent many letters. We had a conference call with him in Damascus. He said, ‘Write a petition letter in support of my case.’ More than 200 signatures and letters were sent to the UNHCR. He said, ‘I’m not thinking of myself, I am head of my family. I’m responsible for my mom and brother. I can’t go anywhere else without them.’

 

Though Firas is fluent in English, his brother and mother don’t know the language. How are they, as a family, adapting to their new situation? What first impressions have they shared with you about the U.S. and what they left behind?

I think they feel very hopeful, but there is an anxiety. They are constantly thinking about people in Baghdad — family — and how are they going to get them out. They reconnected with some friends in the U.S. but have found that many Iraqi families they know are not doing well in this country. Many went back because of alienation they were sensing here, including one who was in Michigan — those who end up in places with no host family and are left to their own devices are having a hard time. One of Firas’ friends was working at a gas station and felt very depressed. My huge hope is this won’t happen to them and they will be able to integrate with the community —and I think this is a special community.

 

What are some of the biggest hurdles Firas and his brother and mother now face as new arrivals to this country?

For Malkia and Ali, it’s English. Connected to that will be finding work for them, in our community with its high living cost. In terms of their tolerance and acceptance of culture as Muslims, that’s not an issue. I went to a yoga class and Malkia wanted to come along. I’m also taking her to a gallery opening this weekend.

Because of Firas’ mastery of English and education he has a great chance of easily entering the job market on a higher level. There have been calls in terms of engineering jobs. But he does have a fear of how his skills will translate here.

 

What do they need most from the community now and how can people help the family adapt to their new life here?

People have been great, checking in, saying hello. I hope people just don’t abandon them, in the sense of thinking, ‘They’ve arrived, they’re fine.’ That’s why so many go back. The hard part is still ahead — help in terms of finding work, learning English and eventually finding a place to live.

 

With school about to start again next week, how will you share with the students of Ross the experience of bringing Firas and his family to Sag Harbor.

I’ll be continuing the human rights and media projects at the school. Nativewithoutanation.blogspot.com, is a site that basically teaches refugee kids and youth from fifth grade to early 20s to use the computer and connects them with American youths. My 11th, 8th and 5th grade classes have been chatting with them and I want to continue that so the kids can communicate.

There is hope we could bring more children to school here. The biggest tragedy is kids who are stuck there are not going to school. They are forced to work or if they go to school, they come back in tears after being labeled as traitors, cowards and being called awful names.