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AFSOUTH Airmen visit school for chronically ill children

SANTIAGO, Chile -- Children from a local orphanage here dance with lead singer Tech. Sgt. Christin Foley and members of the Air National Guard Band of the Central States Monday, March 31.  The band as well as Airman from the Arizona Air National Guard and F-15E Strike Eagle demonstration team took a break from duties during FIDAE 2008, an international air show, to visit with about 60 children from the orphanage.  The Airmen also handed out toys, stickers, patches and Girl Scout cookies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jason Tudor)

SANTIAGO, Chile -- Children from a local orphanage here dance with lead singer Tech. Sgt. Christin Foley and members of the Air National Guard Band of the Central States Monday, March 31. The band as well as Airman from the Arizona Air National Guard and F-15E Strike Eagle demonstration team took a break from duties during FIDAE 2008, an international air show, to visit with about 60 children from the orphanage. The Airmen also handed out toys, stickers, patches and Girl Scout cookies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jason Tudor)

SANTIAGO, Chile -- Captain Ruben Olivas, from the Arizona Air National Guard, hands out Girl Scout cookies to children at a local orphanage here Monday, March 31. The captain and about 15 other Airmen took a break from work at FIDAE 2008, an international air show here, to reach out to local community members.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jason Tudor)

SANTIAGO, Chile -- Captain Ruben Olivas, from the Arizona Air National Guard, hands out Girl Scout cookies to children at a local orphanage here Monday, March 31. The captain and about 15 other Airmen took a break from work at FIDAE 2008, an international air show here, to reach out to local community members. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jason Tudor)

SANTIAGO, Chile -- Captain Ruben Olivas, from the Arizona Air National Guard, hands out Girl Scout cookies to children at a local orphanage here Monday, March 31. The captain and about 15 other Airmen took a break from work at FIDAE 2008, an international air show here, to reach out to local community members.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jason Tudor)

SANTIAGO, Chile -- Captain Ruben Olivas, from the Arizona Air National Guard, hands out Girl Scout cookies to children at a local orphanage here Monday, March 31. The captain and about 15 other Airmen took a break from work at FIDAE 2008, an international air show here, to reach out to local community members. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jason Tudor)

SANTIAGO, CHILE -- Airmen participating in the FIDAE air and trade show, the largest event of its kind in South America, took a moment between demonstrations and displays Friday to visit more than 25 Chilean children at the "Fundacion Nuestros Hijos" (English translation: "Foundation Our Children") school for chronically ill fourth through eighth graders. 

The school, which is on the grounds of a local hospital, allows children access to their medical needs, and teaches the same curriculum other students in the city are learning, said Elizabeth Valenzuela, the director of Fundacion Nuestros Hijos. 

"The children were so excited for the arrival of the Air Force here," said Valenzuela, who also noted this visit was the first time the children had met anyone from the U.S. military. "This visit means so much to these kids." 

The visit was one of 17 community outreach events during the week focused on strengthening interpersonal relationships between the U.S. Air Force and Chilean citizens from across the capitol city. 

"It was an amazing opportunity for us to come to the school and do some positive outreach for these kids," said Staff Sgt. Jerry Rivera, 72nd Rescue Squadron, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. "It's important to show the children that we care for them and value people throughout the world." 

During their visit, the Airmen lost a pickup game of soccer against the Chilean school children and handed out toys, patches, and stickers donated by their home units.
"The adversity these kids are overcoming is truly amazing ... they're so energetic, and have such a great outlook," Sergeant Rivera said. "We can all learn something from them." 

After nearly two hours of playtime, the Airmen had to say goodbye and get back to work at the FIDAE air and trade show where a total force approach is contributing to the success of the event, with 16 aircraft from the Active Duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve participating. Capitalizing on the presence of aircraft and crews, AFSOUTH planners organized the series of community outreach events and a two-part exercise called NEWEN giving Chilean pararescue personnel and F-16 aircrews the opportunity to exchange tactics, techniques and procedures with Airmen.

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