LIMON, Costa Rica -- Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Continuing Promise 2010 brought smiles, hugs and supplies to Costa Rican students during their visit to Westfalia and Hone Creek schools in Costa Rica, Aug. 25-26.
Marines traveled along with the non-government organization Give a Kid a Backpack in visiting schools and passing out stuffed animals and backpacks filled with school supplies.
Give a Kid a Backpack is a non-profit organization that enriches the lives of children in need throughout the world with backpacks filled with school supplies through partnerships with other non-profit organizations. Since 2004, the Give a Kid a Backpack organization distributed more than 75,000 school supplies worldwide.
The organization’s partnership with Continuing Promise began in 2009 and provided backpacks throughout different visited countries. This year, the supplies have been quadrupled. Marines distributed more than 390 backpacks to the students in Costa Rica.
“It’s a great experience to work in such a dynamic environment with all branches of service, especially the Marines,” said Kari L. Williams, native of Orlando, Fla., and public affairs representative for Give a Kid a Backpack. “We haven’t worked with many Marines before and in Costa Rica they have been helping us pass out backpacks and toys to the students.”
Approximately ten Marines visited each school and helped personalize the backpacks for distribution. The backpacks were filled with three-ring binders, pencils, notebooks, toys, erasers and supplies that will further help enhance the students’ education.
“Giving to the children provides me with motivation and energy to keep me going on a daily basis no matter what the conditions may be,” Williams said. “It’s always worth it. Even if you don’t speak the same language, you can always communicate with the non-verbal language, such as hugs, smiles and high-fives.”
After receiving their backpacks, students and Marines interacted by playing dance and hand games, and also by counting one through twenty in Spanish and English.
“Interacting with the children was an awesome experience for me because I am rarely around children,” said Lance Cpl. Tara L. Myers, native of San Francisco, Calif., and maintenance management specialist from 2nd Maintenance Battalion. “The children were very easy to approach, and I had fun learning numbers with them.”
The Marines brought out the best in the children, said Mariam Faircloug Rose, the principal. She said the students are usually shy, but when the Marines joined them in their activities, the children came out of their shell, and she was happy to see them smile and have a good time.
“It was a very unique experience,” said Myers. “I am very grateful that I got the opportunity to come out to Costa Rica.”
From Marines and NGO Give a Kid a Backpack working together in Costa Rica, they were able to strengthen a successful partnership between non-government organizations and military services. With the help of service members, the NGO Give a Kid a Backpack will continue to pass out school-supplied backpacks throughout the deployment to Caribbean, Central and South America.
“There’s tremendous value to the partnerships that we make between NGOs and our military,” said Williams. “Continuing Promise has allowed us to be able to work together and improve the quality of life in all of these countries. We look forward to our collaboration in the future with these countries.”
For more information on the Continuing Promise 2010 Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, please visit the unit’s official website at http://www.marines.mil/unti/2ndMAW/SPMAGTF.