YOKOHAMA, Japan – Marines and sailors attached to the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade Aviation Command Element in support of Operation Tomodachi donated time and effort cleaning up the area surrounding Kodomo No Somo Orphanage here April 2.
Service members spent six hours landscaping the play area behind the home using chain saws, rakes, shovels and weed-eaters. After the work was done, Marines and sailors shared a snack with the children and played games and sports in the yard.
Although the orphanage was not affected by the recent natural disasters, it was a good chance for Marines supporting the operation to give back to the Japanese community, said Marine Aircraft Group 36 chaplain, Navy Lt. Mark Torres.
“It’s a really good feeling to help them and see them smile when you’re done,” said Sgt. Paul Redkevitch, a radio technician with Marine Wing Communication Squadron 18 attached to the 3rd MEB ACE.
Redkevitch is married to a Japanese citizen and said being able to contribute to his wife’s culture and people is a great honor.
The children at Kodomo No Somo are all victims of abuse severe enough that the government stepped in to separate them from their parents, said Lt. Cmdr. Robert Slaughter, Naval Air Facility Atsugi command chaplain. Service members coming and playing with the children has a positive long-lasting impact and is something the children will remember forever, said Slaughter.
“It is a great opportunity to show that we care about and support other countries and we are doing our part to help,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Ian B. Williams, a hospital corpsman with Marine Aircraft Group 36 attached to the 3rd MEB ACE. “I love kids, and have never had a chance to visit an orphanage, so this is great for me to interact and see what these kids go through.”
The orphanage is home to 40 children ages 2 to 18 and employs 23 staff members, 18 of whom live at the orphanage, providing 24-hour support.
Naoki Wada, who has been the director of the orphanage for 46 years, said “I am grateful to have the American military come help us here at our home and to also be helping my fellow citizens affected by the disasters in northern Japan.”