MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
Volunteers with the Marine Memorial Chapel on Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni visited local Japanese children at Midoro Hoikuen in Iwakuni, Japan, Aug. 23, 2016.
The visit was part of a 12-year ongoing community relations program between the air station and local community.
“We try to coordinate at least three or four community relations projects each month,” said Noriko Yamada, administration specialist at the Marine Memorial Chapel. “It gives the personnel of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni a great opportunity to be a part of the strong relationship between the local Japanese community and the air station community.”
Volunteers arrived to the sight of smiling children lined up and ready to start their day of fun filled activities.
“The children really look forward to the visit once a month,” said Azusa Kobayashi, a day care teacher at Midoro Hoikuen. “They even sing English songs before the visits, so it’s very beneficial and helpful for us.”
To start the day the volunteers sang happy birthday to a few of the preschoolers, then proceeded to blowing bubbles and engaged in a water fight with hoses, buckets of water and water balloons.
The experience of interacting with the children plays an important role in building bonds with the local community. It also the helps volunteers understand the Japanese culture.
“The culture motivates me to volunteer,” said Cpl. Javier King, an administrative specialist with Marine Air Control Squadron 4 Detachment B. “I’ve been here for six years and the culture is much different. These kids are taught differently than we are.”
Throughout the visit, the children had the opportunity to smile, laugh and enjoy their day with the volunteers.
“I think the children were really enjoying themselves from the bottom of their hearts,” said Kobayashi. “They enjoyed the water fight. It’s a good experience for the children to interact with people from a foreign country.”
As the day came to an end the children gathered around the volunteers, thanked them for their time and gave them ice cream as a token of their appreciation.
Kobayashi said she thinks the community relations visits are good because the children may become more familiar with English, and considering their close location to the air station it makes future interactions easier.
Some of the Marines who volunteered believe that the relationships built with the children now can have a heavy impact on the relationship between the air station and local community in the future.
“I think it’s easier for us to impact children,” said King. “Starting at an early age, we can show that we are easy going and build a bond that will carry on for the years to come with the local community and air station.”