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News | Feb. 22, 2008

JTF-Bravo assists with school supply donation to local children

By Tech. Sgt. John Asselin Joint Task Force-Bravo public affairs

Joint Task Force-Bravo joined forces with a grass-roots organization from the United States to distribute needed supplies to local school children Feb. 19-21. 

Five representatives from the Give a Kid a Backpack organization in Florida and 15 volunteers from JTF-Bravo distributed more than 700 backpacks packed with school supplies to children at five schools and two orphanages in the Comayagua and La Paz districts. 

According to Rosanna Kingston, founder of Give a Kid a Backpack, the backpacks and supplies were donated by children from across the United States. 

"They come from the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, schools and individual fundraisers," she said. "One of the goals is to have kids in the United States understand the condition of education in other areas of the world. We fill backpacks with school supplies because it is inexpensive and goes a long way. It also encourages kids to continue going to school." 

Getting the backpacks from the children in the United States who donated them to the children in Honduras who now use them was a large production with many players, said Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Jeremy Bastian, JTF-Bravo chaplain. 

"This has been quite a process - it really started a few months ago when the organization contacted the chapel prior to my arrival here," he said. "It turned into a multi-level partnership between the members of JTF-Bravo, the Give a Kid a Backpack organization, the governor of Comayagua and local community leaders and school teachers. For such a large undertaking, the outstanding teamwork of everyone involved made it a seamless operation." 

The chapel worked closely with the JTF-Bravo Civil Military Operations directorate to work out the logistics required to distribute the backpacks, said Army Sgt. 1st Class Julio Reyes, Civil Military Operations noncommissioned officer in charge. 

"We helped out with the logistics by contacting the schools, securing transportation and developing a distribution plan," he said. "We contacted the governor of Comayagua and she suggested which schools we should visit." 

On the distribution days, volunteers from the Army, Navy and Air Force joined up to put the backpacks in the hands of the Honduran children. 

"I heard the chaplain mention the backpack donation and thought it would be a good opportunity for me to go out and help the community," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Gary McCray, a Joint Operations Center controller. "The experience has been great. The kids love it - they have big smiles on their faces. It's a great feeling you get when you give a kid a backpack."