'Cops for Kids' strive to make difference at Kyrgyz orphanage

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Cindy Dorfner
  • 376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Chief Master Sgt. Ronald Richardson is a parent through and through. However, deploying to the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, from the 172nd Airlift Wing in Jackson, Miss., meant the 376th Security Forces Squadron superintendent would spend six months away from his two teenagers.

But his time at the Transit Center showed him that he didn't have to be related to have his heart touched by children. In February, Richardson's security forces defenders created "Cops for Kids," and since then it's been making a huge difference in the lives of the children at the Krasnaya Rechka (Red River) Orphanage.

In the six months since Cops for Kids was created, the group has paid for nine operations: one child needed heart surgery, five underwent corrective eye procedures and three received cleft-lip operations. In addition to the cost of the surgeries, Cops for Kids hired nurses to stay with the children in the hospital and bought the children clothes to wear, food to eat, and even plates and cups from which they ate and drank.

To keep the relationship going, Richardson, who redeploys soon, led a group of defenders to the orphanage about a week after the surgeries to check up on the children he's grown to love so much.

"To visit this orphanage is for me to provide healing for my soul," he said. "I grew up very poor, but at least I had family. These children have none, or if they do, they are not wanted. So, I can't begin to fathom how that must feel or what their lives must be like. What this means to me is to give back to someone who has nothing. These children are so full of love and have such a desire to be loved that it overflows in everything they do with you. They are grateful for every bit of attention you give them."

Richardson learned about Red River from the squadron's translator, Begai (Becky) Tashtanalieva.

Typically, Tashtanalieva said, when organizations look for an orphanage with which to get involved, they stay with the ones that are close. She said she heard about Red River from a friend who works with an aid organization in Bishkek, and found out the 132 children there are rarely visited by anyone and haven't been "adopted" by any particular aid group.

Cops for Kids raises money through donations from members within the squadron, as well as through events they hold, such as a bench press competition, from which they raised more than $2,400.

"We have a motivated, on-fire group on night shift that is already working on making this grow," Richardson said. "They're soliciting friends, family, churches and other groups back home for donations and help."

Senior Airman Nathaniel Sixberry, a defender deployed here from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., got his hometown of Houlpin, Maine, involved immediately. He told his family about Cops for Kids and his mother and father, who is a pastor, started spreading the word. His wife also worked with a 4-H group to get a drop box for donations. Soon after, there was a collection point at the Aroostook County Fair.

Sixberry, who doesn't have children but said he has a soft spot for children, said he's trying to raise enough money to buy the orphanage a stove. The current one is a late 1940s model and doesn't work very well, making it difficult to cook for the 130-plus children.

"When I got here about two months ago, the chief told us about the orphanage and about some of the kids there," he said. "I knew then that I wanted to get involved."

While the intent of the organization is to help and brighten the lives of the children at Red River Orphanage, Richardson said he generally leaves feeling more uplifted than the kids.

"You will never find a more loving, disciplined, well-behaved, happy group of children who are making the best out of what life gave them," Richardson said. "I go there for selfish reasons. By helping them with what little I do, they give me so much more with their love and grateful hearts. They provide me with God's blessing of helping those who cannot do for themselves."