USAFE team to visit Romanian orphanages
LANDSTUHL, Germany — Some U.S. Air Forces in Europe health care workers are turning their annual director’s meeting into an opportunity to help Romanian orphans.
Ten Air Force members and civilians from seven USAFE bases were to leave Sunday for Arad, in western Romania, for a weeklong visit. They are part of USAFE’s Educational and Developmental Intervention Services programs, member Ann Hardy said Friday.
The team, which includes mental health specialists, physical and speech therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists, normally work with special-needs children in USAFE communities.
After two days of meetings on USAFE issues, group members will visit two Arad orphanages run by a nonprofit American aid group. They will make presentations to orphanage workers and visit a state-run Romanian children’s hospital, Hardy said.
In return for helping the orphanage workers learn new techniques, the American staff will gain “a deeper appreciation of the many things that we take for granted, not just in the United States but in Europe and USAFE,” said Lt. Col. Dave Arreola, a Ramstein-based mental health consultant.
“I think it’s going to be a real eye opener for us,” said Arreola, who is heading the trip.
Group members come from Ramstein and Spangdahlem air bases in Germany; RAF Lakenheath and RAF Upwood, United Kingdom; Aviano Air Base, Italy; Lajes Field, Azores; and Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.
The team will spend several days doing its humanitarian work, first visiting two children’s homes run by a Colorado-based Methodist nonprofit group called Global Hope. Team members will assess the children’s hearing and do other medical exams, Arreola said.
One of the children the Americans will visit has scoliosis, which causes the spine to curve, and another has had major eye surgery. One home is dedicated to children with learning difficulties, he said.
The USAFE team will also help teach the Romanian staff some of the basics of child-development work, including the importance of reading aloud to kids and letting youngsters develop their motor skills by lying on the floor on their bellies, Hardy said.
“They might be a little bit behind us on how they approach medical care,” Arreola said.
Romania became infamous after its independence in 1989 when conditions in its poorly run state orphanages were exposed. Today, the country is a key U.S. ally and is being considered as the site for an increased U.S. military presence as the armed services transform into a more expeditionary force closer to the world’s hot spots.
In addition to the medical work, the team is taking plenty of donated medical goods, personal supplies and cash to help the orphanages, Hardy said.
“The response [from donors] has been unbelievable,” she said.