RAWAH, Iraq --
Children at the Al Moaine Elementary School here scampered down to the entrance to meet the Marines who were visiting to drop off special gifts. They followed the cardboard boxes with their eyes entranced as Marines unloaded them into the schoolyard.
Marines with Fox Company, Task Force 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5 dropped off the first donation sent to the children here by citizens of Towamencin, Pa., which is the “Friendship City” for Rawah.
According to www.towamencin.org, the “Friendship City” program traces its roots to the "People-to-People" program that was inaugurated by the President of the United States in 1956 to establish greater friendship and understanding between the people of the United States and other nations.
The plan to become a “Friendship City” was lead by the mother and father of Capt. Aaron Schwartz, the company commander of Fox Co., who reside in Towamencin. Schwartz’s parents coordinated the program with their son to show support for Rawah’s citizens.
“Thank you so much for this visit to our schools,” said Adam Hamed Ghthayan, the director of education for the city, to the Marines. “We will hand out everything brought to different schools in Rawah.”
The boxes of donated goods contained everything needed to kick off a soccer season, including soccer uniforms in multiple colors. The Marines also brought other donated goods, such as books and writing materials to help the students begin the new school year.
“Funding to get these children properly equipped with the things they need for school is a big problem,” said Ghthayan. “Without the supplies they need for school, the quality of their education and their lives are deeply affected.”
Once Marines opened the boxes and began distributing the gifts, hundreds of children swarmed to the source. Little hands rose up over the crowd and the sound of “mister, mister please,” echoed through the schoolyard. The youngsters gasped in surprise and thanks over pencils, pens and books; items that are usually commonplace in the U.S.
“This is all about the children,” said Ghthayan. “Schools have improved so much since 2003. We are looking forward to continuing our work with our friendship city.”
Schwartz assured the people of Rawah that the relationship between the two cities would continue over the years.
“This is just the first shipment of items from your ‘Friendship City,’” said Schwartz, 31, originally from Hatfield, Pa., to the people of Rawah. “(The people of Towamencin) will continue to send things and they are working on getting an Arabic speaker so they can talk to you directly.”