425th Air Base Squadron and NATO reach out to a local girls’ care and rehabilitation center

IZMIR AIR STATION, Turkey --

Service members from the 425th Air Base Squadron and NATO, along with local national volunteers from the Izmir civilian community, reached out to a local girls’ care and rehabilitation center May 7 in an effort to plant seedlings, flowers, fruits and vegetables as part of a landscaping project.

 

Upon the squadron’s request, the girls’ care and rehabilitation center administration provided a wish list of items for the landscaping project of the garden.

 

The staff at the girls’ care and rehabilitation center provides an amazing service to these girls on a daily basis.  I am glad that we have established a relationship with them that gives us the privilege to periodically support their mission,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Cook, 425th Air Base Squadron commander. “The 425th ABS and NATO volunteers who participated in this outreach event worked hard to get the landscaping project done, but I think the most important part of this outreach was the spontaneous volleyball game that broke out.  Both the girls and our volunteers had a lot of fun and I'm sure everyone will have happy, lasting memories of the game.”

A lot of people volunteered their time to get this important outreach program done, and support received from Izmir community members has been overwhelming. Generous members of the Izmir military community from both the 425th ABS and NATO Headquarters Allied Land Command checked off every item on the list and more.

“It was a day I will never forget having the ability to work with the girls at the care and rehabilitation center,” said Staff Sgt. Jessica Mitchum, 425th ABS commander’s support staff.  “The hospitality provided by the faculty and girls was no surprise to us military members. We knew the moment we arrived there that our day was going to be a fun-filled one!  I would love to continue to do more visits and volunteer work at the center in the near future.”

The efforts, headed up by the 425th ABS chaplain’s office, resulted in a truck full of flowers, vegetables, fruits and seedlings being delivered to the center by a dozen Airmen and Soldiers, as well as local and U.S. civilians.

 

Visitors were greeted with smiling faces and a warm welcome in the center’s garden. All volunteers were welcomed under the gazebo of the garden with a sign of Turkish hospitality – being served Turkish tea and some refreshments, cookies, and Turkish pastries that the girls prepared. After helping carry the flowers and vegetables with their visitors, all started the landscaping project with the planting of seedlings and flowers after the welcome remarks of the girls’ care and rehabilitation center director.

The potential barriers of language and culture were quickly knocked down by the precocious girls. Girls communicated with the little English or German they have learned so far in school. Other girls showed their pleasure by singing and dancing. At the local girls’ care and rehabilitation center, volleyball bridged the gap between the Turkish girls and visiting foreigners. Before lunch and prior to departure, the volleyball game allowed everyone to put aside their different worlds and, for 45 minutes at least, be teammates.

 

It is always encouraging to witness our military members' willingness to give their time, talents, and toil to make a positive impact on our community,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Ronald Kiser, 425th ABS chaplain. “I'm thankful to the local girls’ care and rehabilitation center for not only giving us this opportunity to serve, but also for extending the gifts of hospitality and friendship to us.  It also must be stated that I'm thankful for our chapel community whose generous giving allowed us to purchase the plants and tools we needed to make this happen.”

 

Interaction between the care and rehabilitation centers, orphanages, nursing homes, and the Izmir military community should be a constant, according to Chaplain Kiser.

 

Many in attendance said they were moved by the importance of the outreach program and grateful to be part of such a rewarding experience.