NEWS | March 5, 2010

JTF-Bravo, Give a Kid a Backpack: working together to help children of Honduras

By 1st Lt. Jennifer Richard Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

Give a Kid a Backpack Foundation and Joint Task Force-Bravo teamed up Feb. 23-26, traveling the Honduran countryside and distributing more than 1,000 backpacks to children in need.

This is the third year that the foundation and JTF-Bravo have worked together toward a common goal--providing assistance to Honduran people in order to promote development in the region. Together they have delivered about 3,000 backpacks filled with school supplies.

"I feel strongly that many of the problems around the world are because of a lack of education," said Rosanna Kingston, founder and president of the Give a Kid a Backpack Foundation. "Hopefully a backpack full of school supplies will encourage children to continue their educations."

The Give a Kid a Backpack Foundation, which began as a family project in 2003, has delivered about 39,000 backpacks to 14 countries, including the United States. In Honduras, the foundation's work is in line with JTF-Bravo's mission of promoting prosperity and stability in the Central American region.

"This project is an example of how JTF-Bravo can partner with a non-governmental organization to provide assistance in the community," said Army Maj. Jorge Cintron, JTF-Bravo Civil Affairs Director. "With the help of JTF-Bravo, the Give a Kid a Backpack team was able to visit hard-to-reach areas of Honduras and give the backpacks to children most in need. "

JTF-Bravo facilitated the backpacks' distribution by providing transportation to and from the remote Honduran sites. Service-members stationed at Soto Cano Air Base drove sport utility vehicles, contributing their knowledge of the region and of local driving conditions. Additionally, members of JTF-Bravo assisted in giving the children their new backpacks, along with many smiles and high-fives.

"It was a nice experience for me, as a member of the military, to be out there representing the goodwill of the United States," said Air Force Capt. Dave Hein, JTF-Bravo Personnel Recovery Coordination Cell Director, who helped distribute backpacks Feb. 26. "That is really why we are here--to build relationships with the people in the Central American region and show them that we care."

The villages that received the backpack donations were selected according to their need, based on coordination with local government leaders as well as the United Nations World Food Program. Students and their families traveled for up to several hours to attend the backpack distributions, some walking barefoot, some riding in backs of pick-up trucks and some riding mules or horses.

"All of the Honduran people we spoke with were happy with the help we provided to the children," said Major Cintron. "Some of the teachers told me that now, thanks to the backpacks and school supplies, more than 1,000 students will be able to go to school. They were very pleased."

JTF-Bravo and the Give a Kid a Backpack Foundation look forward to continuing this project in Honduras in years to come. It is a win-win partnership in taking something as simple as a backpack and making a difference in the life of a Honduran child.

"Backpacks are practical, inexpensive and easy to give to the children," said Ms. Kingston.

"By JTF-Bravo working with Give a Kid a Backpack, we are helping children pursue their educations and also building and strengthening relationships," said Major Cintron. "I hope that JTF-Bravo and Give a Kid a Backpack not only continue this program in Honduras, but that we keep building on it in hopes of distributing more and more backpacks each year."