Students at Village of Hope Keep Canals Flowing

July 3, 2008

Students of the Village of Hope help clean an irrigation canal near Hawr Rajab, Iraq, June 26, 2008. The students learn construction skills and repair damaged buildings in the program, and also help keep their community clean.

In March I wrote a story about the Village of Hope Vocational Technical school in Hawr Rajab, Iraq and how it was flourishing in the village and helping to teach technical skills to the area students. The residents are beginning to see the successes of the school, as it benefits them. On June 26th, students of the Village of Hope began cleaning irrigation canals in the area, in an concerted effort to improve the flow of fresh water to farms in the region.

Village of Hope students were asked to assist the community with maintenance of the canals. That involved helping to keep them clean, a task that is necessary to keep the water flowing. By doing this, they are not only receiving on the job training skills, but they are also working to benefit the communities that they live in.

“The benefit is for the agricultural community,” explained Air Force Capt Michael Askegren, officer in charge of the Village of Hope program. “This is a rural community that relies heavily on agriculture and farming industries. By cleaning out the canals, they are helping to make sure that the water flowing to the fields is going to be good.”

Currently there are over 200 students enrolled at Village of Hope. The students do work at community projects similar to cleaning the canals, while waiting for their turn in a classroom rotation. In the area, employment outside of farming is often scarce. By attending the Village of Hope, the students are learning new job skills, thus creating income sources. Many of the students are members of the Sons of Iraq. Askegren estimated that only about 1/3 of them would be able to get jobs with Iraqi security forces, so it’s imperative that they learn new job skills, in order to maintain employment and support their families. Other projects have been lined up for students, such as renovating homes and taking part in larger construction projects … all projects that will provide them with training in different job skills. Village of Hope instructors work closely with officials on the Hawr Rajab town council to determine which projects are needed the most.

“We got the second task order awarded on June 26th for students to continue to work downtown, and we’re already working on the next project, which will be the renovation of the Alma-an Boys School. We hope to have that contract awarded as soon as next week,” Askegren said. “We’re definitely moving into the full swing, as far as getting construction going downtown.”

According to Askegren, the Village of Hope is funded until the end of September. He does however, expect that funding will continue into 2009. Hopefully, it will continue, well beyond 209, so that it can continue to offer new job skills and hope to the younger generation of Iraqis in the Hawr Rajab region.



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