BIVOLAK/BIVOLJAK, Kosovo – Kosovo Force troops donated school supplies to an underserved primary school Oct. 6.
KFOR's Regional-Command East planning officer, Maj. Chad Plaisted, organic to the Oregon Army National Guard's 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, led the effort to gather school supplies ranging from notebooks to arts and craft materials and other school necessities.
Some months before the donation, Plaisted and other peacekeeping-KFOR troops participated in a group cleanup at the school where he noticed the students' lack of services and supplies.
"I asked my wife to reach out via social media to friends and family in the U.S. to offer an opportunity to donate supplies to the school," said Plaisted. "Many obliged and mailed nearly a dozen boxes of supplies to our U.S. camp in Kosovo."
Lavdim Klinaku, the primary school's director, said the school, which caters to first- through fourth-grade students, is often overlooked for local government funding because it doesn't have a lot of students.
"There are less than 100 students at this school, and basic supplies can be difficult to acquire," said Klinaku. "We are very thankful to all involved in donating these supplies. It means very much to our students and their families."
The municipality surrounding the school, Bivolak/Bivoljak, is only a 30-minute car ride from Kosovo's capital city of Pristina. But it is significantly less populated, lacks quality infrastructure and is noticeably neglected.
Slovenian Armed Forces Sgt. 1st Class Iztok Kosi is a team leader in one of KFOR's liaison monitoring teams whose mission centers around communities like Bivolak/Bivoljak.
Kosi said he and his LMT members meet regularly with community leaders like school director Klinaku, government officials, or religious leaders to foster positive relationships.
"We facilitate two-way communication while advocating for the needs of the communities in which we operate," said Kosi. "Through KFOR donations, meeting with community members or other community outreach events, we aim to help these communities as best we can."
Since its establishment in 1999, KFOR's mission has been one of peacekeeping and ensuring the safety and security for Kosovo's community members while supporting their government institution's developmental initiatives in education, economy, and health care.
"This has been a humbling experience for everyone involved in this donation," said Plaisted. "These children are enthusiastic about learning, are very deserving, and I hope today's donation inspires more giving in the future."