Airmen Spend Day With Chilean Children
(October 29, 2009)
Maj. Jana Nyerges waits with children from the Angels Community Center outside a museum prior to sponsoring the children's admission to the science exhibits Oct. 13, 2009, in Santiago, Chile. Airmen decided to use their first day in Chile to sponsor a group of at-risk children during a visit to the museum. (Courtesy photo)
| ||SANTIAGO, Chile (10/23/2009 - AFNS)|
Members of the Air Forces Southern Cooperation Team-One began their nation building trip to Santiago, Chile, by taking children to an interactive museum for children here Oct. 13.
Members of 12th Air Force and the Texas Air National Guard completed four days of subject matter exchanges in Santiago in late October with Chilean air force members and was a prelude to Exercise Salitre, a multinational humanitarian and air operations exercise aimed at increasing the cooperation between American Airmen and air force members from Chile, Brazil, Argentina and France.
"It's important to capitalize on every moment of our mission in Latin America to build relationships with our friends -- whether that's Airmen in the (Chilean air force) or with charitable organizations, it's all worth it," said Capt. Randy Saldivar, a public affairs officer with the Texas Air National Guard -- an organization with strong ties to Chile as part of the Texas-Chile State Partnership Program. "After a quick nap, we put on our uniforms and jumped on a bus to the school,"
|For the 14 children of the Angels Community Center, a school for at-risk children, and four adult caretakers, the event was an opportunity to visit a world-renowned science museum built especially to educate children through interactive displays. |
Pilar Paredes, the primary caretaker at the school, accompanied the group to the museum.
"I've worked here for five years, and this is the first time we've had any sort of outing with the children," she said. "We managed to keep this a secret until just before the Airmen arrived. Once we announced the trip, the children were very excited. This is a trip of a lifetime for them."
Organizing the day's outing required a team effort between US and Chilean organizations. AFSOUTH operations and public affairs staff arranged transportation while members of the U.S. Embassy-Chile worked with Chilean executives at the museum for a special group admission rate and other arrangements. Spouses of local Chile air force officers accompanied the group, providing valuable translation skills and motherly patience. The AFSOUTH CT-1 Airmen brought candy and gifts for the entire school, and then each sponsored three or four of the eager children's admission to the museum.
"The museum staff really treated the children...and us, like VIPs," Captain Saldivar said. "The displays here are perfect for anyone. Children and adults were able to learn about the world in a fun and educational environment; and best of all was that every lesson is hands-on and interactive."
Airmen spent hours chasing their guests through mirrored halls, testing electrical circuits, navigating optical illusions, levitating objects with air currents, playing giant pianos in their socks, and lifting their friends on chairs rigged to various pulleys. After an afternoon of learning, the team headed back to the school, thankful for the experience, but sad at the impending parting. Several of the children clung to Airmen, insisting on a few more moments of attention, photographs and memories.
"Thank you for visiting us," said Ms. Paredes as she kissed each Airman. As the visit drew to a close, the children presented Airmen with hand-made cards they had colored themselves.
"We'll be back," exclaimed the Airmen as they opened the cards. The children stood by as the team read the inscriptions inside the cards. The cards read, "En cada ni�o una sonrisa y en cada sonrisa una gestitud," which in English means "In every child a smile, in every smile is gratitude."
By USAF Capt. Nathan D. Broshear
12th Air Force Public Affairs
Reprinted from Air Force News Service
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