PATTAYA BEACH, Kingdom of Thailand --
Marines and Sailors with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, spent their free time helping disabled children during a port visit in Pattaya Beach, Thailand, Feb 24.
One group of service members spent the day at the Father Ray Foundation School for the Blind, while another group worked at foundation’s Redemptive Vocational School for People with Disabilities.
“The foundation reaches out to orphaned, neglected, and abused children. There are a lot of needs, and this project requires time and dedication from people who care,” said Father Picharn Jaisale, vice president at the Father Ray Foundation. “I admire the Marines for having the heart to serve society and come to help us, even if for just a short time.”
At the School for the Blind, Marines and Sailors painted a fence, contributing to beautifying the school. They then played with the children, and at the same time learned about the children’s disability.
“This has a great impact, not just on the kids we are helping, but also on the Marines,” said Master Sgt. Jennifer Alderette, operations chief, CLB-31, 31st MEU. “People can see that we really care about helping here. The Marines here are taking their free time to help out these children. The Thai people see that and appreciate it, and the Marines get a valuable experience.”
According to officials at the foundation, they never send a needy child away. They offer a chance to change lives for the better, to be educated, and to learn the necessary skills and knowledge to become more independent, the key essentials preparing for successful adult lives.
Marines and Sailors witnessed the students demonstrating their learned skills, including walking around the campus, playing music, negotiating the playground, operating a camera, and even telling time.
While at the Redemptive Vocational School for People with Disabilities, Marines enjoyed time helping the students with their English skills, then played basketball together.
“The Marines do many things for this foundation every year. It is very nice that the Marines came today to share their experiences with my students,” said Chanasta Ruenyen, a teacher at the disability center, and a former student at the school. “My students appreciate the chance to practice their English with native speakers, and also to hear about their experiences in the United States and hear about their opportunities.”
Additionally, many families with disabled children contact the school for help. The foundation is the only local organization that offers to help children with Down’s syndrome, autism, and cerebral palsy.
“Everyone has potential, including the disabled,” said Jaisale. “We try to develop their potential into reality. Many parents try to contact our school for our help, and the volunteer work the Marines do here helps us provide services for those children.”
The community relations event at the Father Ray Foundation, and other similar events in Pattaya Beach, are held to enhance relationships and build lasting bonds for the future between the Marines and people of Thailand.
“We can’t wait to see the Marines next year, and we hope to keep working together,” said Ruenyen.
“This brings the Marines together, builds the morale of our unit and most importantly gives us the chance to help these children,” said Alderette. “These experiences helping children, give our Marines a chance to serve others while building appreciation for other cultures.
The port visit to Pattaya Beach comes at the end of the 31st MEU’s participation in the annual Cobra Gold exercise, one of the largest land-based multi-national exercises in the world.
The 31st MEU is the nation’s only continually forward deployed MEU, and remains a force-in-readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.
For more information on the Father Ray Foundation, visit the website: www.fr-ray.org.