KIN, OKINAWA, Japan (August 11, 2010) --
When Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit walked in the doors of Nagomi Children’s Orphanage August 6, the children ran, screaming. But it wasn’t fear, it was out of excitement due to the visitor’s arrival.
As everyone was introduced, the Marines were given name tags with their names in Japanese and the children were given ones in English, to help with communication.
The Marines handed-out candy, played relay games, tag, and duck, duck, goose with the children. Some of the children brought out a football and played catch. Others made their way to the swing set for a more relaxing playtime with the Marines.
“The children enjoy spending time with the Marines,” said Emi Naito, community relations specialist with camp services on Camp Hansen. “It’s a great opportunity for them to interact with people they look up to.”
However, the children were not the only ones who had a good time. It also gave the Marines an opportunity to meet locals and become involved off-base.
“I had fun and I would definitely come back again,” said Cpl. Andrew Morris, training non commissioned officer with the 31st MEU. “It gives us a sense of being part of the community.”
Naito added it’s important that the Marines develop relationships with the children because the youth are the future of Okinawa. Even if the visits are short, any time the Marines can invest matters to the children.
“In a way we are like role models, said Sgt. Anthony Garbo, section leader with the 31st MEU.
Established in 2000, Nagomi Children’s Orphanage is home to 40 children, most of who are at the orphanage because of difficult family situations.
“The kids will always remember that time,” said Garbo. “Even those short few hours, last a lifetime.”