Aid to Stolac's school

Lt. Antonio Ruiz González
First published in
SFOR Informer#140, June 6, 2002

The Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC) team of the Spanish Battle Group (SPBG) delivered more than 32,000 pieces of stationery and other materials for the school in Stolac last week. Half the children of this school are Bosniac; the other half are Bosnian-Croat.

Stolac - It is a beautiful city where the Bregava River flows. Alongside the city an old castle stands. It has seen a great deal over the years. Since the Ottoman Empire, the city has been a hot spot, with an ethnically mixed population.
The town, lying 30km's south east of Mostar was named in December of last year because of the arson in the mosque. The monument was built during the Ottoman Empire over a Christian Church site in the 16th century, and has now been rebuilt.
The School
The school is located in front of the mosque that is experiencing frenetic activity, with almost the whole roof finished. There are two principals in the school, one for each ethnicity. Bosniac classrooms are on the ground floor and a portion of the first floor. The second floor and the rest of the school are for Bosnian-Croat children.
"Almost every school that I know of here is divided by floors according to the ethnicity of the children," said Spanish Staff Sgt. Jose F. Cámara Criado, CIMIC team of the SPBG."They follow different studies, with different teachers. There is a long way to go," he said.
Delivering Aid
The effort was not only to collect the aid but also to deliver it. "It's very difficult to bring aid to these schools. You have to make contact with the principals of the two communities, making it an exercise in diplomacy. Because you have to deliver the same amount for each ethnic group, and both have to agree about the day," said Capt. Jose A. Ubeda Garceran, CIMIC team leader.
Soldiers of the CIMIC team and Spanish Military Police Guardia Civil of Mostar, unloaded the lorry and prepared to give the gifts to the children.
The donations were collected in Cantabria, North of Spain, and sent to Bosnia and Herzegovina. First Lt. Francisco Rodriguez Palma, Guardia Civil Platoon Leader, of the Multinational Military Police Coy in Mostar made the necessary contacts.
The materials were offered by trades people in Cantabria and sent to improve the education of the children of this country. They received more than 17,000 pens and pencils, and more than 5,000 notebooks. Balls, dolls, radio tapes, torches, and sports clothing were also donated.
Santa in BDUs
The children were very nervous because they saw the lorry coming into the school. "What is this? What is this?" they asked the soldiers in the local language.
When teachers explained the situation to them, they became quite calm and expectant. After that everyone went into their classrooms and got their packs containing the stationery and other materials.
Their faces shone brightest when some of the children received football suits for the football teams of the school. Their excitement resulted in much shouting and jumping.
The scene resembled that of Santa Claus on Christmas night, or the night of the Three Magic King's, but in this case the equivalent Santa was wearing a Battle Dress Uniform (BDU).
The children quickly put on their new football uniforms and followed suit with a rousing game of football.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Spain

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Photos: PO Susan Rose

Members of the CIMIC team of SPBG, and Guardia Civil unload the donations.

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The children wait eagerly to pick up their new stationery.

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Schoolchildren put on their new football uniforms and prepare to play a game in the schoolyard.