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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinApril 18, 2003 Issue 

Chilton to Baghdad via crayon

Drawings from kids head to kids in Iraqi orphanage

By Patricia Kasten
Compass Associate Editor

During the height of the Iraq war, did you wonder about the children of Baghdad? In the midst of bombs and gunfire, did you wish you could do something to make them feel safe and cared about?

Children at Chilton Catholic School did and they hope that drawings of happy things will help, even now as that war winds down. Hand-drawn pictures of rainbows, teeter-totters and butterflies are on their way from Chilton to 26 children living in a Baghdad orphanage. The drawings symbolize one basic wish for those children: "Have a smile on your face," as second grader Tyler Mathes said.

The pictures, along with letters to troops serving in Iraq written by the older students at Chilton, were the idea of peer helpers at the Chilton school. Peer helpers are fifth and sixth graders trained to assist fellow students during difficult situations. With the help of Liz Roman, guidance counselor, the 10 decided younger students at the school could draw pictures, older students could write letters, and the entire school could collect Pennies for Peace to send to the Red Cross for humanitarian relief efforts.

"I did it as a guidance lesson," Roman said. "I told the students, 'These kids have war around them and they're Catholic like us. What do you think would make them happy?'"

"It makes me feel happy when I swing," said second grader Meghan Breckheimer, who drew a picture of a playground.

"When I go to school, I'm happy," said Andrew Krause, displaying his school spirit drawing.

"This is really kids connecting with kids," said Dr. Helen Scieszka, pastoral associate for Chilton Area Catholic Ministry. The entire project began when she read a news service article in The Compass about the 26 mentally and physically disabled children living in the Baghdad orphanage. It was founded by Mother Teresa in 1991 and is staffed by her Missionaries of Charity.

"There must be a way to do something," Scieszka remembers thinking. She also remembered how frightened local school children were when a May 2000 hailstorm damaged much of Calumet County. "The sound (of the hail) was scary," Scieszka said, "and these kids in Baghdad are going through that type of fear hour after hour."

As the war intensified, she wanted the children to know that, even as we pray for and support our troops, "we were not at war with the Iraqi people" and that there are many ways to settle differences and bring healing.

After checking with The Compass and determining that aid is getting to the Mother Teresa Orphanage through the ecumenical Voices in the Wilderness' Iraqi Peace Team, based in Jordan, Scieszka and Roman sat down to brainstorm. The resulting drawings were sent to Abp. Fernando Filoni, the papal nuncio of Baghdad.

Scieszka hopes the drawings get through, but, even if they don't, she knows the Chilton children have already learned the best lesson: "There are a lot of things they can do, even though they're kids, that can help people halfway across the world."

Chilton's kids just hope their pictures give Baghdad orphans a chance to smile, at least for a moment. That's why, as Zachary Woelfel said, they didn't draw any war pictures to send because "they would have gotten even sadder."

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