Monthly Welfare Facility visits form laughter and fun
KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- On the first Tuesday of each month, the 8th Fighter Wing chapel goes out to a local orphanage in Gunsan City to spend time with the children there.
As mission, leadership and community are key wing priorities, partaking in volunteer projects in the local area help bolster relationships within the Republic of Korea. Volunteering in the community also helps Airmen develop leadership skills as they become positive role models within the community.
"It's an opportunity for us to give back to the local community," said Chaplain (Capt.) Graham Baily, 8th Mission Support Group chaplain. "It helps us put our best foot forward with folks in the Gunsan City area and reach out to children who don't have parents in their lives."
The Welfare Facility has more than 60 children living in it. The chapel facilitates a visit to the facility on the first Tuesday of every month.
"Even though we're here with our host nation to do our part militarily, it's also nice to kind of show them that we have that other side to us where we're also parents, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters," said Master Sgt. Grace Parenteau, 134th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, first sergeant, Vermont Air National Guard, South Burlington, Vermont. "They can see us as human and not just a military force. It's nice to be able to take our uniforms off and show that we're not only living alongside them, but also giving back to their community."
As Airmen give back to their community, they are also providing mentorship to a younger generation.
"Through serving those children, our Airmen are also building in themselves a more resilient spirit," Baily said. "This in turn helps them build a more resilient approach through their personal and professional lives."
The trip to the orphanage also enabled Airmen to see from a child's point of view.
"Looking at it from a girl's perspective, there were fewer girls than boys," Parenteau said. "I brought nail polish with me, because it helped me communicate through the language barriers."
During the last two trips to the orphanage in August and September, children immediately approached the volunteers with open arms as soon as they stepped off of the bus.
"The children just came running up to our Airmen," Baily said. "What impressed me was that within 30 seconds of being there, our people are automatically engaging, interacting and showing the children something really positive."
The Airmen not only demonstrated a willingness to serve, but also grew more mature in terms of what it means to be a positive influence.
"When we do these sorts of things, we get more fulfillment from volunteering and serving for an hour than we could ever possibly give," Baily said.
During previous volunteer projects, Airmen and children laughed, smiled and shared memories together.
"I think there's an international language of fun," Baily said. "Everybody was energized by the interaction. It feels good to go out and serve the community."
The Welfare Facility visits eliminate language barriers with opportunities that are created from games and interactions between Airmen and the children in the facility.
"You're just playing, being a big kid and running around," Parenteau said. "The smiles those children had filled my heart with joy. As I was driving away I thought of the memories we shared."
"It's very easy to come out and volunteer," Baily said. "The reward is so great. What you gain personally from what you give is amazing. You get an opportunity to come out once a month and enjoy your time with the children. You'll love them and grow in ways that you never even thought were possible."
To volunteer at the next Welfare Facility visit, call the 8th FW chapel at 782-4300.