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Daily Herald Article

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.



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

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.

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

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, the Hope Church's Web site.

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