Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cobra Gold 2011 Marines, sailors provide help to local Thai women's center

2/9/2011  By Lance Cpl. Miranda Blackburn  , III MEF 

KORAT, Kingdom of Thailand  — 
Marines and sailors participating in Exercise Cobra Gold 2011 visited Narisawat Wefare Protection and Vocational Training Centre for Women Feb. 5, 2011, as part of a community relations project.

Approximately 20 Marines and sailors went to the center to particpate in the this, the second community relations project coordinated by 1st Marine Aircraft, III Marine Exepeditionary Force chaplains.

Cobra Gold 2011 is a regularly scheduled joint and combined exercise in the continuing series of U.S.-Thai military exercises designed to ensure regional peace bY strengthening the bonds between the seven particpating nations: Thailand, Republic of Singapore, Japan, Republic of Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Malaysia and the U.S. Community relations projects are just one part of the exercise which includes a staff exercise, field training exercise events and humanitarian civic assistance projects.

The center was established in 1966 to support disadvantaged women who have been taken out of human trafficing and prostitution.

The center provides young women with a sense of independence by giving them spiritual rehabilitation, vocational training and non-formal education to reintegrate them into society.

Approximately 150 young women between the ages of 8-18 had the chance to interact with Marines and sailors by getting to know one another, playing games, dancing and singing.

"Just being able to make them laugh was the best part," said Lance Cpl. David Odle, a Marine Air Support Squadron 2, Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st MAW, air support operations operator.

Once the activities began, the smiles were neverending. 

"These (community relations projects) show the humanitarian side of the military," said Lance Cpl. Chalisa Thomas, a field wireman with MASS-2. "They have a less fortunate life than we do, and they should have a chance to at least have fun or be happy."

Thomas said she got so involved with the girls because she could tell that even her small actions were making a difference.

"Not only does it help the people, but you feel good too," she added. "Helping someone else, knowing that they're happy, makes me happy too." 

Even though many of the girls couldn't speak English and only one service member in the group spoke Thai, the two groups still managed to communicate.

"Love isn't about giving things to people," said Comdr. Dean Hoelz, chaplain of Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st MAW. "It isn't so much about what you say but what you do. Love really is like an action verb, and that's what our Marines and sailors demonstrated. They showed love to these kids, and everyone knew what it was." 

By spending just a couple hours with these young women and donating some needed feminine hygiene products to the Narisawat Welfare Protection and Vocational Training Centre for Women, service members built relationships and provided help and welfare to those who needed it most.

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