AYACUCHO, Peru --
Thirteen children from the Miguel Peñarrieta School on the Peruvian Army base, Los Cabitos, were sponsored by New Horizons - Peru 2008 task force members for a trip to the local museum and zoo, July 25. The opportunity, provided by Air Force Services, was a great way for the children to see sites they might have never seen and for the task force members to bond with the Peruvian kids.
"Staff Sgt. (Eddie) Tacub and I talked with the principal and asked if New Horizons members could take the kids out on a field trip on their last day of school," said Staff Sgt. Javier Romero, Task Force New Horizons morale, welfare and recreation manager. "We put the word out through the camp for volunteers. The response was overwhelming."
The first stop was the Museo Hipolito Unanue to learn about the history of the Ayacucho region of Peru. Paired with at least one child, task force members escorted the children through the museum. However, the children found the servicemembers digital cameras more interesting than the displays and exhibits.
"The children got introduced to technology they might never see or use," said Senior Airman Lara Davis, Task Force New Horizons personnel support for contingency operations technician.
The next stop was the zoo, where local wildlife, such as monkeys, pumas, birds and fish were on display. Unlike zoos back in the states, this Peruvian zoo allowed viewers to get up-close with the animals, some of which are not often found in American zoos.
"The animals in the Peruvian zoo were a little different because they were animals that we as Americans would normally see on the streets, like pigeons and squirrels," said Airman 1st Class Lauren Russell, an information manager for the task force. "It shows that other countries appreciate the simple things in life. But as in the U.S., the zoo was a great adventure."
Melva Montoya Altamirano, school principal and teacher expressed her gratitude on the morning adventure.
"I thank them for taking the kids out. With all the politics going on in Peru, we went out like one big family; it didn't matter if we were Peruvian or American," translated Sergeant Romero.
For some task force members, the opportunity to spend a few hours with Peruvian children was the best part of the deployment.
"The kids don't have many opportunities so to be able to give them the chance to do something they would never be able to do was a rewarding and memorable experience," said Airman Davis. "Years from now when I think of New Horizons, this will be what I remember the most."
New Horizons is an annual program sponsored by U.S. Southern Command to provide humanitarian assistance to Latin America and Caribbean nations. For New Horizons - Peru 2008, more than 950 Airmen, Sailors, Marines and Soldiers from active duty, guard and the reserves, built three medical clinics, two schoolhouses and a well over the course of three months. Besides construction, seven medical readiness training exercises provided free medical care for the Peruvian people of the Ayacucho region.
To learn more about New Horizons, visit http://www.12af.acc.af.mil/library/newhorizons.asp