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Penny Campaign to Turn Afghan Minefields Into Playgrounds

On the five-year anniversary of 9/11, more than 1,000 Fremont, Calif., teenagers—many of Afghan, Iranian and Iraqi descent—participated in a special junior high school assembly honoring those lost and recognizing the everyday heroic efforts of local police and fire departments. The event also kicked off the annual Roots of Peace Penny Campaign to give children in war-torn Afghanistan safe schools and soccer fields.

To better demonstrate how the landmines are cleared, the Marshall Legacy Institute in Washington, D.C., sent a highly trained mine-detecting dog and handler to the California event to demonstrate how these dogs safely sniff out underground booby traps.

Shamim Jawad, wife of the Afghan ambassador and international chairwoman of the Roots of Peace Penny Campaign, addressed the audience in both Farsi and English. “We are witnessing a bright and peaceful beginning for Afghan children, who have been the prime victims of war, terror and brutality. For the past three decades, violence has deprived children of a proper education and landmines have taken their lives and limbs away. Now is the time to give them the hope, education and resources that every child deserves and demands.”

The Roots of Peace Penny Campaign has inspired thousands of American students and community members to collect more than 10 million “pennies for peace” to protect lives and restore the hopes of future generations in war-torn countries. Afghanistan is among the most heavily mined countries in the world. According to the United Nations, there are an estimated 60 landmine victims each month in Afghanistan alone—half of them are children. One-hundred percent of the pennies donated have been put to use in Afghan projects that have cleared a dangerous minefield next to the Bajgah village school in the north, restored soccer fields on former mine fields at the boys’ and girls’ schools in Bagram, and will build new classrooms at a tent school in Mir Bocha Kot.

Approximately 15,000 Afghan-Americans live in this San Francisco Bay area, the highest concentration of Afghan-Americans living in the United States. The Penny Campaign is a student program of the Roots of Peace nonprofit group, whose mission is to transform toxic minefields into thriving farmland and communities—planting rice in Cambodia, grapes in Afghanistan, wheat in Iraq, orchards in Croatia, and pineapples in Angola. Roots of Peace is one of the U.S. State Department’s public-private partners in humanitarian mine action.

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