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LOCAL
SMALL SACRIFICE: Chapman Hills Elementary student volunteers, from left: Kiersten Knust-Graichen, Megan Van Ligten and Kara Lindsey, all 11, cuddle a donated teddy bear.
MINDY SCHAUER, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
MORE PHOTOS
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About the group
Information on another nonprofit helping Iraqi children
RELATED STORIES
•Allawi asks Europeans to help in Iraq
•Troops prepare for invasion
•Iraqis abroad OKd to vote
•U.S. airstrikes target Fallujah
HOW TO HELP

Donations of school supplies and other items for Iraqi children will be taken through Nov. 20. To contribute, call Silva Mirzoian's nonprofit Passions & Dreams at (310) 273-1019 or e-mail contact@passions dreams.org.

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Friday, November 5, 2004

Supplying love to Iraqi kids
Chapman Elementary pupils donate pencils, toys and lots more.


The Orange County Register

ORANGE – Megan Cox found it easy to part with eight of her precious Beanie Babies, a sweater, a toy clock and a purse.

"I want the Iraqi kids to have some of the supplies because we're at war right now," said Megan, 7. And she added, softly: "Kids are losing families."

Words like this bring tears to Silva Mirzoian's eyes, expressions of caring that she hopes Iraqi children in her homeland will appreciate when they handle stuffed animals, books, backpacks, shoes and clothes sent to them by their American counterparts.

To that end, Megan's schoolmates at Chapman Hills Elementary in Orange on Tuesday loaded up a van with school supplies and other items they collected in the past two weeks.

The items were taken for storage to a Los Angeles warehouse and to Mirzoian's Beverly Hills nonprofit, Passions & Dreams.

The goods will become part of an expected container load - 20,000 to 25,000 pounds - to be delivered to needy Iraqi children halfway around the world close to Thanksgiving.

Mirzoian, an Iraqi-Armenian Christian, heard from her aunts and cousins in Baghdad about children in dire need of school supplies, stories that mothers of children at Chapman Hills Elementary also have read and seen on television.

Three to five Iraqi schoolchildren share one pencil. Kids walk barefoot to school, on the days that they go at all. And toys, well, for the most part, there aren't any to play with.

"Unfortunately, Iraqi children temporarily don't have supplies," Mirzoian told a Chapman assembly on Tuesday, fighting back tears. "It's so beautiful for them to receive supplies all the way from America."

Last year, Mirzoian tried to get school supplies to children in Baghdad, but her drive failed to gain traction. This year has proved easier because of all the attention being paid to Iraq.

Chapman is the only Orange County school to participate so far. Mirzoian connected with a school mom, Nada Hajjar, who approached the principal and the PTA. Donations also are coming from a high school in La Crescenta, business organizations and individuals.

Friends and strangers, many of them American mothers, have come to the rescue.

"All mothers care about children, and knowing what all these children in Iraq are going through, their lives are in shambles and they're losing parents," said Megan's mother, Mary Cox. "It's nice for all of us to think that our contributions might make a difference for a few kids over in Iraq."

A stuffed brown teddy bear with a red bow. A mini pink suitcase on wheels. Notebooks, folders and crayons.

To this pile of items collected by Chapman pupils, sixth-grader Joey Ramirez added two books Tuesday - "Boxcar Children" book stories by Gertrude Chandler Warner.

"We have CD players, we have MP3s, we have a bunch of electronic things and these guys are happy for, like, little cars and stuff and it's the least we can do," said Joey, 11. "I mean, they're just not as fortunate as we are. We got so many things and they got so little."

He and other classmates helped load the items into the van. And the curious bunch peppered Mirzoian with questions.

"Will this be going to Baghdad?" "How are you going to get it to Iraq?" "Do they get to choose what they get?"

Items will be distributed through Life for Relief & Development, a nonprofit that offers humanitarian services globally. The goods are expected to arrive close to Thanksgiving and shortly after Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when children traditionally receive gifts.

Mirzoian views sending supplies as a gesture of American good will that won't go unnoticed by Iraqis.

"For me, it's a way of trying to end terrorism; it's spreading love instead of fear," Mirzoian said. "It shows that we care. This will sort of curb the hatred towards foreigners and Americans. You get them with kindness, not guns."

A recent documentary, filmed by Iraqis, shows children walking barefoot and without toys. One youth in the film asks Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to send weights so he can build muscles.

"No matter where you are politically," said Kris Adams, whose daughter Emma, 7, brought shoes, books, crayons, pencils, a journal and toys for the Chapman drive, "I can't imagine how devastating it must be for moms and kids."


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