SKOPJE, Macedonia — It was a time of celebration, a time of friendship and a time focused solely on the children. Hundreds of students, teachers and parents greeted U.S. European Command members who traveled here to celebrate the refurbishment of two local schools.
Together with USAID, the U.S. Embassy in Macedonia and the Macedonian government, EUCOM helped to fund the projects at the schools.
In the first school, the team pulled together to replace old malfunctioning wood-burning stoves and replace them with an eco-friendly hot water radiator heating system. Macedonia gets average temperatures of 32 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and as the local Mayor attested, it's these important improvements that make a difference in the lives of children.
"As young students of the school, they expect our support in trying to secure better conditions for them for a better education," said Mayor Trajkovski. "In turn, this encourages them to give their best and to do their best."
The second school received some new windows and doors as they replaced the 70-year-old relics that used to be there.
Navy Rear Adm. Andy Brown, logistics director at EUCOM, was honored to be the one chosen to represent the command at the school ribbon-cutting ceremonies.
"As a U.S. Navy Admiral, I never thought I'd be standing here, but I can't say enough how proud I am to be friends with the people of Macedonia," Brown said. "The country is beautiful, the people are friendly and there's a bright future here."
EUCOM, along with the assistance of USAID and the government of Macedonia, has helped renovate eight schools thus far and six more projects are currently planned for the coming year. Over the last 10 years, EUCOM has provided more than 1.5 million dollars across Macedonia through renovation as well as other vehicle and property donations.
Trajkovski said they are thankful for all of the support and confident Macedonia and the United States will be able to work together in the future as partners to further the education of the children.
"We have an obligation to make better conditions for [the children]," said Trajkovski. "The impetus is greater and better for us if we work with partners from the municipality, from all the people who live here, in cooperation with neighboring countries and in cooperation with friends such as the United States. This is in the form of exchange of info, exchange of opinions about the educational process, new methods and methodologies we can introduce in our school to help our students."
Brown said EUCOM is committed to working with the people of Macedonia.
"We appreciate the people of Macedonia," said Brown. "They've welcomed us and allowed us to do this for the betterment of their country. It's all about the children, not about us. It's about working with people making us all stronger together."