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What children want

world Updated: Nov 20, 2010 21:09 IST
The Washington Post

Iraq is a pretty different place from the United States. It's much smaller, for one thing. It's mostly desert and, as you probably know from the news, seven years ago the United States invaded Iraq. The country is now trying to rebuild.

But for all the differences, kids in Iraq want pretty much the same things that you want. They want to hang with their friends, learn cool new skills and have a good future.

That's why Mary Kerstetter, who works for the US Department of Agriculture in Iraq, had the idea to start a 4-H Youth Development Organisation there early this year. Originally started in the United States in the early 1900s for kids living on farms, 4-H clubs today cover a broad range of activities for all kinds of kids, teaching photography, arts and crafts, and gardening.

In Iraq, there are now four 4-H clubs, with 124 kids, ages 12-16.

"I love helping the kids (in Iraq) and seeing the changes on their faces, watching them grow," Kerstetter said surrounded by 4-H kids from Baghdad.

"They are very quiet and shy when you start with them, and then they become confident. They're learning responsibility. They're learning leadership."

Take Malad Faris, 14, who was one of those shy kids when she first started coming to 4-H meetings. Then she began making friends and learning first aid and discovering her love of public speaking.

"With the activities we do, we discover our capabilities and abilities to work with our society," she said, speaking from Iraq through an interpreter. Now Faris talks to adults and other kids to get them interested in 4-H.

One of the first things the club did was elect officers. Saif Al Hmadni, 14, was elected treasurer. He sees the club as a way to improve himself to become "something good in the future." He wants to be a doctor.

Kerstetter hopes the clubs will continue to grow.

"I felt from the very beginning that this was going to be good. I didn't know it was going to be this good," she said.

Yousif Mahamed Nea'amh, 13, is a news reporter for the club.

"The first thing I learned from the 4-H club is how to work as a team,' he said.

They voted to name the club Al amal which means 'hope' in Arabic.

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