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Hello all: I have decided to stick with what was mostly done in past news clippings in concentrating on news sources such as Reuters, AP, BBC, etc. They provide a lot of information. Newspaper/Magazine editorials and articles should be sent directly to the discussion group as should personal stories/reports. I think people may well like to discuss matters raised in opinion articles and so posting them should not be postponed until the weekly clipping. Thanks, Hathal School kits made for Iraqi kids BY STACY ST. CLAIR Daily Herald Staff Writer For years, Martha Selby wished she could help the children of Iraq. The Naperville woman had grown restless with the United Nations' decade-old sanctions against the country. She believed the restrictions penalized ordinary Iraqi citizens, while the powerful remained unscathed. It made little difference that the economic embargo allowed Iraq to import essential food and medicinal supplies. Many reports suggested the staples weren't reaching the average person. Last month, the United Nations humanitarian chief quit rather than preside over the stern sanctions. "I felt powerless because I couldn't do anything about it," Selby said. "The people there are suffering. It seems all we're doing is strengthening the regime. I was frustrated about that." Selby eventually was encouraged to take action through a project sponsored by the Philadelphia-based American Friends Service Committee. The Quaker organization was seeking volunteers to create "school kits" for Iraqi children, and Selby jumped at the chance. She persuaded her congregation, Hope Church in Naperville, to join the effort as part of its mission work. She also persuaded some members to devote the entire month of April and the first week in May to assembling care packages filled with notebook papers, colored pencils and ball-point pens. So far she's compiled 13 kits. She says it's too early to predict how many she'll have by May. The proposal initially made a few members, including the Rev. Tim Rhodes, flinch. Less than 10 years ago, our country had been at war with Iraq and its leader Saddam Hussein. The sanctions, which are heavily backed by the U.S. government, suggest the Middle Eastern country remains one of this nation's most bitter enemies. "We have encountered some resistance," the minister said. "But we counter resistance with education." Rhodes said his reluctance evaporated when he began researching the living conditions in Iraq. Inadequate medical supplies, food and clean water cause more than 5,000 Iraqi children to die each month, according to U.N. estimates. The conditions spurred Rhodes to write a letter to the United Nations, asking officials to lift the sanctions. "The time has come for us to shift our strategy," Rhodes said. "We have to make sure the U.S. does not become an enemy of the people instead of the enemy of Saddam Hussein." Selby takes a similar tact when she tries to persuade people to aid her cause. She never asks people to "donate to Iraq." Instead, she uses phrases like "help the children" and "help the people of Iraq." She hopes her word choice touches upon the basic tenets of human kindness. She understands why some would reject requests to aid Hussein's regime, but she can't imagine anyone refusing to help a child. "My conscience tells me it's hard to watch people suffering," Selby says. "It's a humanitarian thing." Armed with a heavy conscience and a supersize box of Ziploc bags, Selby tries to drum up support for the Iraqi cause. She hands the bags to friends, fellow church-goers and bowling league members and asks them to return them filled with school supplies. It's a specific list - a spiral-bound notebook, 10 pencils with erasers, a small pencil sharpener, two ball-point pens and eight to 12 colored pencils - intended to assist the 83 percent of Iraqi schools in need of rehabilitation. Many potential donors worry the kits will never reach the children, that somehow they'll end up in Hussein's office supply closet. Selby tries her best to assure them otherwise. The American Friends Service Committee funnels the care package into Iraq via the Middle Eastern Council of Churches, she says. The organization distributes the supplies directly to the schools. Selby attempts to erase kit-makers' doubts, but she doesn't push. She describes the current education system in Iraq - three to four students sharing a desk, crumbling buildings, rooms equipped only with blackboards and a couple of nuggets of chalk - but she doesn't badger. "I am pretty laid back about it," she said. "I want them to do it from their heart, not because I asked them to." In the end, Selby wants her project to have done more than just secure school supplies for an impoverished country. She hopes it will have eased the animosities between the United States and its one-time war opponent. "We do have a negative opinion of Iraq," she said. "That's not healthy. They're people just like us." For more information, see www.sharehope.org, the Hope Church's Web site. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email firstname.lastname@example.org Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi