U.S. Service Members Visit Swazi Orphanage
U.S. service members participating in exercise MEDFLAG 09 donated 6,200 South African Rand (about $800) worth of food and toys to 65 children, ranging in age from one to 15 years old at Emmanuel Khayalethu Orphanage in Swaziland, Aguust 14, 2009.
MEDFLAG is a joint and combined military exercise led by U.S. Army Africa in support of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) to improve medical disaster preparedness and humanitarian assistance management. During the exercise, both U.S. and Swazi personnel conducted in class training on disaster medical planning and operations, a mass casualty exercise and humanitarian, and civic outreach to local communities. Classes included first responder familiarization, disaster relief, preventive medicine and tropical medicine.
Halfway through the exercise, several service members wanted to do something more for the community and decided to collect donations in order to purchase food and toys for a local orphanage, as well as spend time with the children.
"This has been the most rewarding part of my time in Swaziland," said Marine Corporal David Johnson, 8th Communications Battalion field radio operator. "Our spending time with them, even for a few hours, shows the children someone does care about them and that they are not alone. The toys are great, but the personal attention is what they really enjoyed."
For the next several hours, 10 U.S. service members played soccer, rocked babies, held hands with toddlers, rolled toys trucks back a forth, combed little dolls hair and gave piggyback rides to the children of Emmanuel Khayalethu Orphanage.
"What you have done here today is one of the most important things you could have done for the children," said Hixonia Nxumalo, Emmanuel Khayalethu Orphanage coordinator. "Nearly all of these orphans have had nothing but bad horrific experiences in the young lives. The time and love you have shared with them will stay with them the rest of their lives."
The U.S. service members were in Swaziland at the invitation of the Swazi government and in coordination with the U.S. Embassy in Mbabane. Upon completion of the exercise, the U.S. service members returned to their home stations.