KAMENICA/KAMENICE, Kosovo – Dozens of children from the Kamenica/Kamenice municipality rode off on bicycles to start of a day of events with U.S. Soldiers from Multinational Battle Group East, Nov. 7.
Two Puerto Rico National Guard Soldiers accompanied the kids on a 20-kilometer bike ride through Kamenica/Kamenice. About halfway through the course, the riders were joined by another group when they met near the Kosovo/ Serbia Administrative Boundary Line; kids from Serbia joined the ride. The multiethnic group of riders included Kosovo-Albanian, Kosovo-Serbian, Kosovo-Roma and Serbian teens and children with their U.S. hosts.
The day of activities included a Zumba class that helped in introducing different cultures into the children’s lives.
The Civil and Military Operations office worked hand and hand with the Liaison Monitory Team from the area to set up the day’s events.
“We have kids here from three different ethnic groups,” said Master Sgt. Richard Vilar-Rivera, Gurabo, Puerto Rico, CMO non-commissioned officer in charge, MNBG E, “Roma, Albanian and Serbian.”
“The activity helped them to forget about their differences for a while and help them integrate as one society,” said Staff Sgt. Otoniel Rivera-Perez, Loiza, Puerto Rico, training and operations battle desk non-commissioned officer, MNBG E.
“A few weeks ago, I was in the gym, and I heard master sergeant Vilar talking about the bike ride,” said Rivera-Perez. Rivera-Perez, an avid cyclist, brought his bicycle and riding uniform with him to Kosovo, and was pleased to participate in the event, he said.
One of the goals of the day’s activities was to improve the health and fitness of the children in Kosovo, said Rivera-Perez. The bike ride was a way for them to excersize and to have fun, and so was the Zumba® class that followed.
Spc. Emilio Rivera-Maldonado, Coamo, Puerto Rico, personnel service clerk, Task Force Falcon, MNBG E, conducted a Zumba class at the Youth Center where he encouraged everyone to have fun, dance and work out.
“I want to leave a part of me and my culture with these people,” said Rivera-Maldonado, who sees his classes as his way of giving to the communities. “They are learning music, dance, and doing exercise,” he said.
Even though at first they may not get the steps, the kids are always smiling and trying, said Rivera-Maldonado.
“We are trying to make a difference in these kids’ lives, we are trying to bring them together,” said Rivera-Maldonado. “And we are doing it a little different than previous rotations.”
“They enjoyed the activity as one big family,” said Rivera-Perez.