Parents across Europe are given the opportunity each year to recognize those who make a difference in their children’s lives.

Thanks to parents’ comments, two women from Sembach Air Base in Germany and a woman from RAF Lakenheath in England were recently recognized as the top caregivers in U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

From Sembach, Victoria Torres received the Child Development Center Caregiver of the Year award, while Karen Waples was named School-Age Program Caregiver of the Year.

Michele Bursey of RAF Lakenheath was named Family Child Care Provider of the Year for the child care she provides at Lakenheath base housing. Bursey is licensed for six children and is currently contracted by the military to care for sick children as part of the Mildly Ill Family Child Care program.

“If a child becomes ill at regular day care and they’re worried about an outbreak, they are placed in MIFCC,” Bursey said. “It’s a test program right now.”

Waples is the program coordinator for Sembach Air Base’s school-age child-care program and has been taking care of children for 23 years. She went into child care because she wanted her children to have the care she felt was lacking at child care centers at the time.

“I couldn’t find good, adequate child-care for my children,” Waples said. “I knew what I was looking for as a parent and the kind of people I wanted to work with my children and be around my children.”

Torres, who works with 3- to 5-year-old children, said what she does is more than just a job.

“When the parents put you in for an award like [that], it makes you want to come back to work,” Torres said. “It makes you feel like you’re really doing something for the community.”

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