By Alicia Dill
CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo -- Families of U.S. troops in the Kosovo Force have donated clothing and school supplies to an elementary school in a small mountainside village here.
In the village of Ukzmajl, Kosovo, 600 euros -- about $750 -- is the yearly budget allotted by the municipality for the Skenderbeu School. Aware of the scarcity of funding for the school, Kosovo Force soldiers and their families decided to do something to help. Eight soldiers from the 28th Infantry Division, Harrisburg, Pa., visited the school and met with the children.
"We knew that it was a small school and very poor," said Army Capt. Kevin Romine. "I also have teams that work in the area, and they were familiar with the needs of the school."
With donations from churches, families and the Mountain View Elementary School in Harrisburg, the troops had more to give than a friendly visit. The soldiers brought school supplies, as well as winter clothing and boots to help combat cold winter temperatures in the Balkan region, said Army Staff Sgt. Herb Morrow.
"From the day-to-day grind of being tasked with missions, it was nice to go out and be able to benefit the children so they can see us in a different light," Romine said. "Instead of just seeing KFOR vehicles drive down the road, they realize we are caring and compassionate."
Donating to the school was a positive experience for students in both Kosovo and Pennsylvania. For the students who donated from Mountain View Elementary School, it was a way to connect with their global peers.
"Our goal at the elementary level is to develop a sense of citizenship and caring," said Jill McPherson, student council project adviser at Mountain View Elementary School. "We have done projects at a local level, but this was an opportunity for the students to connect in a global way. With a direct connection to our soldiers in Kosovo, the kids could put names with faces, and even our kindergartners can feel like they are helping other people."
"If nothing more, we are showing the children of Kosovo that we care about their future," said Morrow. "I think it is important as well for our children back home to see us doing these things, because it gives them a feeling that they are helping."
Muhamet Murati, principal at the Skenderbeu School, sees a need for supplies, along with the basic pens, pencils and paper, that would enhance the science subjects and add a more challenging curriculum.
"We wish we had a chemistry lab or somewhere they could do practical labs, rather than just learning out of textbooks," he said. "We need the resources to have more specialized subjects to teach at the school here."
However, he does not take for granted the donations of time and supplies that different organizations have contributed.
"These things are big, and they have to come with time," he said. "We don't like asking for things, because you always give us so much."
The soldiers plan on returning to the village before their upcoming end of mission and are still collecting donations from family and friends in Harrisburg.