Kids helping kids

By RUTH MOON For The Sun

Nine-year-old Sebastian Nimako-Boateng knows from watching TV that U.S. armed forces fighting in the Iraq War are putting their lives on the line. So he wrote a note to thank them.

“War is really, really bad stuff. They’re risking their lives and could die,” the brown-eyed boy said. “That’s why I wrote that, because it’s just a way to tell them I’m thankful for what they did.”

Sebastian, a Naperville resident and student at Peterson Elementary School, was one of 100 students and parents who turned out at the school Wednesday night to put together school kits for Iraqi children and write letters for soldiers and children.

Sebastian’s letter reads: “Dear soldgier: thank you for going to war and risking everything. From Sebastian.”

That note is one of a stack of colorfully drawn notes sporting hand-drawn photos of rainbows, flowers and butterflies with notes for soldiers and children. Many are signed with the Arabic phrase “as-salaam alaikum,” which means “peace be with you.”

Elsewhere in the school’s common room, 7-year-old Avalon Dufkis sat at a kid-sized bench table drawing a purple heart-shaped flower on a blue piece of paper for an Iraqi child.

“They have no school supplies, and we’re trying to make them happy,” she said. “It would be really hard (to have no supplies).”

One wall of the common room was lined with boxes of school kits — containing items like scissors, rulers, pencils and notebooks — and other donated items such as blankets, winter coats and shoes for Afghani children.

The children put the kits together from items donated by parents and others. Event coordinator Diane Esser estimates the children put together 200 school kits, each worth about $15, and wrote around 250 letters.

The items will be delivered by Operation Iraqi Children, a foundation started in 2004 to provide school supplies and other items to children in areas where the U.S. military is serving. Soldiers distribute the items to children in need.

Esser called the event a “service learning program.”

“The idea behind it is to teach our children that there are children in the world who are in so much need, and we can help them and should — it’s our responsibility,” she said. “They get to learn about geography, the region we’re helping and current events in a delicate way. They want to help, and this gives them an opportunity.”

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