Canadian soldiers launch donation drive for Kandahar school

A group of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan is appealing to military families back home to add some basic school supplies to their care packages.
Some Afghan schoolchildren live with their families in these bombed-out former Soviet military barracks. ((Susan Lunn/CBC))
A group of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan is appealing to military families back home to add some basic school supplies to their care packages.

The soldiers are trying to help out a school in Kandahar whose students are the children of soldiers in the new Afghan national army.

The students and their families live in an old Soviet-era barracks, bombed by the U.S. military during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

Canadian soldiers who mentor their Afghan counterparts came up with the idea to help the school.

Maj. Rev. Jim Short, who is helping organize the donation drive, said the Afghan people have captured his heart.

"No matter how you feel about what religion you come from, or your political perspective, I think we all believe education is really important for the future of this country," he said.

He's asking the families of Canada's 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan add some school supplies to care packages they send to Kandahar. There are already some shipments ready to be mailed off in Canada, and the soldiers hope to deliver the school supplies later this summer.

A Canadian soldier (second from left) poses with some young Afghan students. In a meeting last weekend to co-ordinate aid efforts, the pupils fussed over troops' jewelry and sunglasses. ((Susan Lunn/CBC))
They're also trying to find a way to raise money for soccer equipment and school uniforms.

Last weekend, a group of female Canadian soldiers got a rare glimpse inside the school, with its small classrooms and cracked, crumbling walls. They were invited to meet with Grade 7 and Grade 8 girls and their teachers, who were all eager to practise their English.

While the meeting was supposed to be a formal discussion about what the teachers and the students need the most, many of the teenaged girls were more curious about the jewelry and sunglasses the soldiers were wearing. They also asked questions about makeup and nail polish and whether the soldiers had boyfriends or husbands.

One of the teachers, Nasareen Zaker, said she has high hopes for her students. She said she hopes they become good doctors, engineers and journalists.