GARMSIR DISTRICT, HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- he Kodoala Drab School students peeked through a laptop monitor and across continents on the morning of April 13.
The satellite videoconference may be the high point in the relationship between the Windward School, a seventh through 12th-grade private school outside Los Angeles, and Kodoala, a school in Garmsir District, Helmand province.
It all began in December, when Windward mailed a video to Kodoala. In the video, Windward students introduced themselves in the Kodoala students’ Pashto tongue. The Windward students offered their friendship and have been sending school supplies and relief packages ever since.
Hours prior to the videoconference, Jim Hake, the chief executive officer and founder of Spirit of America, summarized what SOA and Windward hoped to accomplish.
“In February, Windward students organized a school supply drive and packed 200 backpacks filled with school supplies that Spirit of America shipped to the Marines and [Kodoala],” said Hake, whose organization helped the schools connect. “Today in Garmsir, the introductory video from Windward will be shown to the [Kodoala] students before the videoconference. After the videoconference, the supplies donated by Windward will be given to the [Kodoala] students.”
Approximately 125 Afghan students gathered in the Kodoala courtyard to participate in the conference. After the opening video, Afghan students sung a Koran passage, said Maj. Bryan Andersen, the Civil Affairs Group team leader with 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. The Koran recital was followed by a saxophone performance by one of the Windward students, he said.
According to Andersen, from Raleigh, N.C., the conference consisted mainly of questions and answers between the Windward and Kodoala students.
Capt. Ziad Fakhoury, the commanding officer of Golf Company, 2/1, said students from both schools were timid at first, but loosened up as they established common interests, such as their love for sports.
“At the end of the day, children are children everywhere, and students are students everywhere,” said Fakhoury, from Syracuse, N.Y.
For Windward, the videoconference was another opportunity for students to learn about the positive effects of their efforts.
In January, Lt. Col. Benjamin Watson, the commanding officer of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, visited Windward and spoke to the students about the importance of humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan.
Watson’s battalion preceded 2/1 in Garmsir District.
Today, 2/1 hopes that concerned citizens like the Windward students will help the Afghan people see that education is one of the keys to a brighter future.