FORWARD OPERATING BASE JACKSON, Afghanistan --
The Female Engagement Team and 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment has been conducting shuras or community gatherings in order to help the local population outside of Forward Operating Base Jackson, Afghanistan.
The children’s shuras consist of educational classes followed by some sort of fun activity. The classes are split into two groups. One group for older children and the other group is for younger children and the girls.
“FET facilitates a children’s shura every week,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Kimberly Ryan, female engagement team leader, Marine Headquarters Group and a hospital corpsman by trade. “We usually try to incorporate a guest speaker to give the children a positive message too.
Today we had a Huquq (Afghan version of the ministry of justice) come talk to the children about their rights,” Ryan added. “The ANA (Afghan National Army) has a principal that has been helping us a lot too. He teaches about what the kids want to learn. Today they learned about English and math.”
The local children also received classes about counterfeit money and about the Quran. After the classes the kids were then taken to fly kites.
“After the classes, we usually play sports like soccer and stuff like that with the kids,” said Cpl. Brandy Bates, female engagement team member, Marine Headquarters Group, from Ann Arbor, Mich. “Flying kites was a good change, the kids definitely enjoyed it.”
Bates, has been helping the Marines of 3/7 to conduct shuras since November, 2011.
“The biggest differences I’ve noticed since starting is that the children are definitely better behaved now,” Bates said. “They are also learning to appreciate the stuff we give them instead of just coming here for the free stuff. These kids are real smart and they want to learn. They like learning English.”
According to Ryan, when she first started helping 3/7 with shuras in September, 2011, they would only get about 20 children to attend. Now they receive 110 kids on average and the most they have seen is about 150 children.
“You can tell the kids want to learn more,” Ryan said. “They are starting to ask questions like ‘will my country ever be built up?’ You can tell the children are caring more about their education.”
During the shura, the children can be seen crowding around the American forces, talking to them and playing with them.
“I love helping the kids,” Bates added. “I love being able to see them smile. The girls can’t go to school here but they like learning. One of my favorite things is being able to help give them a basic education. I love the children, they’re sweet. The children are definitely the future for Afghanistan. I hope what we’re doing will give them the opportunity to prove it in the future.”