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Servicemembers visit Guyana orphanage, build friendships

Master Gunnery Sgt. Artis Weaver, Joint Task Force Guyana chief enlisted officer, plays a game of cricket with the children at Joshua's Place orphanage July 5, 2009 in Georgetown, Guyana. Airmen, Marines, and Soldiers visited the orphanage to find out what they could do to help the orphanage. Master Gunnery Sgt. Weaver is deployed from Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 49, Naval Air Station Willow Grove, and hails from Fort Washington, Maryland. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Perry Aston)

Master Gunnery Sgt. Artis Weaver, Joint Task Force Guyana chief enlisted officer, plays a game of cricket with the children at Joshua's Place orphanage July 5, 2009 in Georgetown, Guyana. Airmen, Marines, and Soldiers visited the orphanage to find out what they could do to help the orphanage. Master Gunnery Sgt. Weaver is deployed from Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 49, Naval Air Station Willow Grove, and hails from Fort Washington, Maryland. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Perry Aston)

Command Sergeant Major Lynward Hall, 878th Engineer Battalion, Georgia Army National Guard, hands out candy to children of Joshua's Place orphanage July 5, 2009 Georgetown, Guyana. Sergeant Hall's battalion is deployed here to help build a $350,000 clinic, just one of the many projects totaling more than nine million dollars. Sergeant Hall hails from Statesboro, Georgia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Perry Aston)

Command Sergeant Major Lynward Hall, 878th Engineer Battalion, Georgia Army National Guard, hands out candy to children of Joshua's Place orphanage July 5, 2009 Georgetown, Guyana. Sergeant Hall's battalion is deployed here to help build a $350,000 clinic, just one of the many projects totaling more than nine million dollars. Sergeant Hall hails from Statesboro, Georgia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Perry Aston)

Command Sergeant Major Lynward Hall, 878th Engineer Battalion, Georgia Army National Guard, speaks with the girls of Joshua's Place, about what they could use at the orphanage, July 5, 2009 in Georgetown, Guyana. Sergeant Hall's battalion is deployed here to help build a $350,000 clinic. Sergeant Hall hails from Statesboro, Georgia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Perry Aston)

Command Sergeant Major Lynward Hall, 878th Engineer Battalion, Georgia Army National Guard, speaks with the girls of Joshua's Place, about what they could use at the orphanage, July 5, 2009 in Georgetown, Guyana. Sergeant Hall's battalion is deployed here to help build a $350,000 clinic. Sergeant Hall hails from Statesboro, Georgia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Perry Aston)

Members of Joint Task Force Guyana pose for a group photo with the children of Joshua's Place orphanage, July 5, 2009 in Georgetown, Guyana. Airmen, Marines, and Soldiers visited the orphanage to get information on what kind of support JTF Guyana can provide. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Perry Aston)

Members of Joint Task Force Guyana pose for a group photo with the children of Joshua's Place orphanage, July 5, 2009 in Georgetown, Guyana. Airmen, Marines, and Soldiers visited the orphanage to get information on what kind of support JTF Guyana can provide. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Perry Aston)

GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- Air Force, Army, Marine and Navy servicemembers kicked off New Horizons Guyana 2009 July 1, a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored humanitarian event that will benefit thousands of Guyanese in the Georgetown area and outlying areas.

One of the first trips members took was to the Joshua House Children's Center, an orphanage in the heart of Georgetown that houses sixty children from the ages of four to seventeen.

"This is one of the most worthwhile missions we've done," said Lt. Col. David Silver, 878th Engineering Battalion, Georgia Army National Guard. "This is the kind of mission we really enjoy doing; it's an opportunity for our soldiers to give and provide for others."

The orphanage helps children of all ages who come from broken homes or their parents have passed away from AIDS, or even children whose parents simply don't have the ability to care for them. Joshua's House assists children in schooling and growing, and teaches them how to be successful, stable adults in the working communities when they leave the House. 

"We welcome visitors to the children," said Clifford Accra, Joshua's House director since 1994. "It's not everyday they get to spend time playing cricket and singing songs with the American military men and women." 

The children feel good about it, he said.

Visiting the orphanage as well as various schools in the area gives servicemembers here the chance to take time out from their construction projects to build friendships and strengthen bonds with the Guyanese people. 

"It really is fun to interact and play with the children here," said Lt. Col. Patrick Keenan, the Joint Task Force Guyana commander. "This is an opportunity to share with the Guyanese people. It really highlights the humanitarian nature of our mission." 

Volunteer opportunities throughout the deployment are being coordinated by the 4th Civil Affairs Group, a Marine Reserve unit out of Washington D.C. 

"I really wanted to come visit the kids, brighten their day, maybe read a book or two with them," said Airman 1st Class Janice Jacques, JTF Guyana security forces, from the 3rd Security Forces Squadron, Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. 

In addition to visiting the orphanage, the task force is scheduled to construct one school and one medical clinic, reconstruct another school and provide medical assistance. The schools will have classrooms and playground equipment and the new clinic will have four examination rooms and a waiting room. 

The New Horizons project will cost approximately $9 million dollars; including planning, transportation and logistics costs. It is scheduled to run through Sept. 15, with more than 650 U.S. servicemembers in participation.

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