Children from Tibnin orphanage visit UNIFIL’s ITALAIR

UNIFIL Italian Peacekeepers and young people from Tibnin Orphanage play a game on a visit to UNIFIL’s ITALAIR.

The head of UNIFIL’s ITALAIR, Col Giovanni Maria Scopelliti, gives a thumbs up at the end of a cultural performance by young people from Tibnin Orphanage.

Young people from Tibnin Orphanage wave at a UNIFIL helicopter on a visit to UNIFIL’s ITALAIR in Naqoura.

Col Giovanni Maria Scopelliti, head of UNIFIL’s ITALAIR, welcomes the children from Tibnin Orphanage to Naqoura.

UNIFIL’s Head of Mission and Force Commander, Major General Michael Beary, gives a small memento to each of the visiting children.

UNIFIL’s chief and Mr Ali Saad, from Tibnin Orphanage clap hands with two of the visiting students.

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11 Apr 2017

Children from Tibnin orphanage visit UNIFIL’s ITALAIR

UNIFIL’s Italian Air or ITALAIR hosted on Saturday a group of about 35 children from an orphanage in Tibnin, within UNIFIL’s area of operations in south Lebanon. 

During the two-hour tour, the children, accompanied by the staff of the orphanage run by an NGO called “Ameliah Association for the care of Orphans,” were briefed on the work of UNIFIL and ITALAIR. They also got to see and get inside one of the helicopters, under the supervision of an Italian pilot. 

UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander Major General Michael Beary also greeted the children and watched them perform Lebanese cultural dances. 

“We have a long-term relation with the orphanage, which we supported in the past with a number of donations,” said Lt Col Alessandro Vicari, the ITALAIR project officer who helped organize the children’s visit. He added that ITALAIR has an “emotional attachment” with the area (Tibnin) and the children since 1997 when the UNIFIL task force lost a five-member crew, including four Italian and one Irish peacekeepers.

Established in 1979, just one year after UNIFIL itself was established, ITALAIR or Italian Air is one of the oldest units in UNIFIL. With almost four decades of continuous service, ITALAIR has been a witness to much of UNIFIL and South Lebanon's history.

Ali Saad, Deputy Director of the Tibnin Orphanage, commented on ITALAIR's long presence when he said to the Force Commander, "In UNIFIL a lot of people have changed, and a lot of battalions, but ITALAIR has stayed. For my generation, when UNIFIL came I was 11 years old, and we learned the different sounds of the helicopters. And without seeing it we can recognize the UNIFIL helicopters from others!”

Addressing the assembled group of students and peacekeepers Mr. Saad added, “It's our pleasure to be here with you. We believe in peace and we believe in freedom, and UNIFIL is striving for that too."

The ITALAIR task force operates directly under the UNIFIL Force Commander. Its activities include transportation of passengers, air patrols within the UNIFIL area of operations, observation and reconnaissance missions along the Blue Line, and, if requested, fire-fighting operations in cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces.

The Tibnin orphanage currently accommodates 65 orphan girls, aged between three and 18, from different regions of Lebanon.

Article: Tilak Pokharel, Aoibheann O’Sullivan
Photos: Tilak Pokharel