Ramstein Airmen deliver goods, smiles to Rwandan children

KILGALI, Rwanda — Schoolchildren surround Air Force Tech. Sgt. Hector Nieves at their school here Sept. 22, 2006. Nieves, assigned to the 86th Air Mobility Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, helped other Ramstein Airmen deliver school supplies, blankets and clothing to the children. The items were donated by the Kaiserslautern military community. (Department of Defense photo by Air Force Senior Airman David O'Leary)

KIGALI, Rwanda — Large smiles, chewing gum bubbles and high-fives were the scene Sept. 22, 2006, when Airmen from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, delivered donated goods to orphans and school children here.

The 787th Air Expeditionary Squadron, comprised of 20 Airmen from the 86th Airlift Wing, 86th Contingency Response Group, 86th Operations Support Squadron and 700th Contracting Squadron, deployed to provide airlift to Rwandan troops serving with the African Union as part of the NATO mission in the Darfur region.

The squadron members delivered blankets, clothing and school supplies to the children. The items were donated by Air Force and Army units in the Kaiserslautern military community.

"Our orphanage would not be able to keep its doors open if it were not for donations," said Sister Allison, headmaster at the Missionaries of Charity. "The U.S. Air Force always helps us out by donating every time they come to Rwanda."

After the servicemembers offloaded boxes, the children thanked them by singing songs in Kinya-rwanda, the national language of the country. The songs were followed by tours of the facilities and the opportunity for Airmen to interact with the children.

As the service members toured the dirt-floored facilities, lit only by natural light, children showed their appreciation with high-fives and hugs.

"Our priority is the military mission, however, we are thrilled to have the chance to give donations collected from our local community to Rwandan schools and orphanages," said Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Renner, 787th AES commander. "The smiles on the children's faces provides us with an unexplainable feeling that we will not soon forget."

Several of the orphans and students benefiting from the donations are victims of the genocide war that occurred in 1994, said Sister Allison.

"Rwanda continues to move forward after the atrocity it experienced only 12 years ago," she said. "These donations are an example of the world coming together to help make Rwanda's future bright."

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