AFSOUTH Airmen visit school for chronically ill children
By 1st Lt. Candace Cutrufo , 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs
/ Published April 09, 2008
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.