Sunday, August 19, 2007

Afghan children return from Poland field trip

10 Aug 07
By Spc. Micah E. Clare
4th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - School field trips provide critical exposure to new experiences and knowledge about the world, and for nearly 30 Afghan school children this was never more true when they recently visited Poland.

Sponsored by the Polish Minister of Defense, Afghan students ranging from 10-to 16-years-old were chosen to spend two weeks sightseeing in the eastern European country of Poland, said Jacek Matuszak of the Polish Public Information Office. The trip not only opened up the world around them, but also showed them another way of life other than the one they are familiar. They were chosen as the best, most promising students from eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province by the provincial Minister of Education, Matuszak explained.

The students were flown to Poland July 26 where they visited communities and cities along the scenic Baltic Sea. "We had the opportunity to take them to either our sea or mountains," said Matuszak. "But we figured being from Afghanistan they had seen enough mountains."

The children were treated on behalf of the Polish government to a variety of child-friendly activities. "They went to museums, zoos, sport events, dances; they did a lot during their stay," said Matuszak. The kids also interacted with Polish children and played soccer and volleyball together, as well as becoming familiar with billiards and electronic games. During their visit, they were also given the benefit of state-of-the-art medical facilities, Matuszak said. They were all given check-ups and some were given treatments for various illnesses.

"It was such a fun experience," said Imran Jabar, a 12-year-old boy from Waza-Khwa Central High School, who has never before left the country. "The sights were amazing, especially the big, beautiful cities. [At a military family social event] I enjoyed the dancing the most, the Polish dance so beautifully, very different from traditional Afghan dances."

Yet of all the experiences shown them, perhaps the most valuable was meeting people living in a free country. "What meant the most to us was how friendly the people there were, they were always smiling," Jabar said. "Living in such freedom is something we dream of here [in Afghanistan]. I can’t wait for our country to someday become just like that."

The children’s teachers, who went with them, were very happy to see their student’s horizons widened. "We wish our children to see, first-hand, the progress of other countries," said Abdul Ghani, Jabar’s teacher. "This trip has opened up their minds to learning more about the world like nothing else could. Several of them have already asked about a continued education in Poland."

This is something the government has made possible. In an attempt to renew historic ties with Afghanistan, Afghans coming to Poland are offered a scholarship by the government, explained Polish Maj. Wojciech Kaliszczak, the Public Information officer for the Polish Battle Group stationed in Afghanistan. The two countries have had relations since the 1920s, at that time Polish soldiers came to the rugged Afghan mountains for special training, said Kaliszczak. Later, many Afghans came to Poland for refuge during the Russian occupation 30 years ago.

"We have always had very good relations with the Afghans and we want nothing more than to offer them opportunities, which will help them rebuild their country, he said.

This is exactly what the government of Poland had in mind when they arranged this "long range field trip." "Since we are representatives of the kind of democratic country we are trying to give the Afghans, we want to give them a chance to see what living in such a country is like," Kaliszczak explained.

"Who better to show than the generation growing up in a free Afghanistan?" he said. "We gave them what they need the most, a smile and a helping hand.

Photo - The Afghan students who just returned from their field trip to Poland wave while at the Polish military compound at Bagram Airfield Aug. 9. Photo by Spc. Micah E. Clare.

Source: Digital Video & Imagery Distribution System.

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