Airmen from the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing are invited for chi tea and cookies and to play with the children after they finished painting playground equipment and installing a new stove for Umut-Nadjeshda Children's Rehabilitation Center May 9 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The Airmen are deployed to nearby Manas Air Base and volunteer to help out at the center. The center is home to about 60 children and teenagers, aged between 2 to 21 years old. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Charles M. Wade)
Staff Sgt. Robert Forbes paints a column on a piece of playground equipment at the Umut-Nadjeshda Children's Rehabilitation Center May 9 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. A group of Airmen visited the center in their off-duty time to help install a stove and improve the children's playground. Sergeant Forbes is a vehicle maintenance technician assigned to the 376th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron at nearby Manas Air Base. He is deployed from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, and his hometown is Tucson, Ariz. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Charles M. Wade)
Master Sgt. Bob Atchley paints a wooden swing at Umut-Nadjeshda Children's Rehabilitation Center in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, May 9. Sergeant Atchley and a group of Airmen from nearby Manas Air Base visited the center in their off-duty time to do various improvements and play with the children. He is the noncommissioned officer in charge of intelligence and investigations for the 376th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron and is an Air National Guardsman deployed from the 144th SFS in Fresno, Calif. Sergeant Atchley's hometown is Porterville, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Charles M. Wade)
Master Sgt. Roland Rendon shares a laugh with a child from Umut-Nadjeshda Children's Rehabilitation Center May 9 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Sergeant Rendon and a group of Airmen from nearby Manas Air Base visited the center to do various improvement projects and play with the children. The California Air National Guard member is deployed to the 376th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron. His hometown is Fresno, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Charles Wade)
by Master Sgt. Charles M. Wade
376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
5/14/2009 - MANAS AIR BASE, Kyrgyzstan (AFNS) -- Ten Airmen from Manas Air Base visited the Umut-Nadjeshda Children's Rehabilitation Center in Bishkek May 9 to help fix the center for more than 60 local children.
The off-duty Airmen painted playground equipment, installed a new stove and to make other improvements to the center for the youths aged 2 to 21.
Before arriving, the Airmen stopped at a local home decorating store and picked up some paint and a new stove for their fourth visit to the center since January. Upon arrival, the Airmen were greeted with smiles, and one child came up and shook hands with the Air Force volunteers.
Master Sgt. Mike Cantos, the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing ground safety manager and Nadjeshda Center volunteer committee leader, requested funds from the base's Top-3 council to pay for a new stove that was badly needed.
"The old stove was in bad shape, and only two burners worked," Sergeant Cantos said. "They have a lot of kids to cook for and this will cut their time in half. The playground equipment is also deteriorating and was in need of some new paint to make it look nicer."
Work started immediately after the volunteers arrived as three of the Airmen went to work tearing out the old stove and installing the new one, while the other volunteers pulled out the brushes, cracked the cans of paint and started in on the faded playground equipment.
"It's good to help out an organization that is in need," said Master Sgt. Ken McCullough, a superintendent for the 376th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron. "We are so blessed to be able to share our skills, love and good fortune with our Kyrgyz neighbors. You can tell right away that we are making a great difference."
Before installing the new stove, Master Sgt. John Pahukoa noticed there was no neutral in the original configuration of the stove circuit.
"I reconfigured the wiring in the receptacle to match the stove and bonded the neutral and ground in the main panel," said Sergeant Pahukoa, an electrician who serves as the 376th ECES electrical and fire alarm systems quality assurance evaluator. "If we would have just plugged the new stove in without reconfiguring the circuit, it would have posed a shock-hazard."
The time the children spend on the playground is often therapeutic, helping them improve their motor and social skills. The Airmen noticed the equipment was faded and peeling and saw yet another opportunity to help improve a little part of the children's lives.
"We only saw a few of the children that attend or live at the school, but we know that what we did today helps benefit them all," said Master Sgt. Richard Gower Jr., superintendent for the 376th Expeditionary Logistic Readiness Squadron vehicle management flight.
After nearly three hours of work, the staff from the school invited the Airmen to sit and have chi tea and cookies. The room erupted in laughter as the children and volunteer Airmen tossed a balloon around.
"Children here are no different from anywhere else," said Master Sgt. Roland Talon, the 376th ECES flight chief for readiness and emergency management. "The children at Nadjeshda are orphans; some of them disabled, and they still deserve to smile, laugh and experience love."
The children didn't speak English and the Airmen didn't speak Kyrgyz or Russian, but what the Airmen did to help out spoke volumes to the residents and staff of the Nadjeshda Center.
"The kids here do not have very many positive things in their lives," said Master Sgt. Robert Spychalski, the 376th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker section chief. "This was just one small opportunity to bring some happiness and support to kids in need."
"It was just nice to play with the kids and see the smiles on their faces," said Staff Sgt. Robert Forbes Jr., a 376th ELRS vehicle maintenance technician. "That alone is worth the trip."