Okinawa Outreach brings Christmas cheer to local children
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Fourteen volunteers from Kadena's Top 3 and the 18th Communications Squadron brought a little Christmas cheer Dec. 10, when they visited the Midori School-Age Program in Okinawa City.
Their visit gave the kids the opportunity to indulge in American Christmas customs by decorating cookies and meeting Santa Claus.
"It's an exchange with the military and the kids here," said Master Sgt. Laketra Cole, 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron NCO in charge of the North-side aircraft parts store. "As far as the Christmas cookies, I'm not sure they're familiar with that culture. It's just about sharing our culture. We have a great time doing it, and the kids have a good time too."
Kaichiro Yoza, Midori SAP director, said he enjoys having the volunteers visit, and said it's great to see the two cultures come together.
After so many visits, Yoza said he can see a big change in the children's behavior.
"They can't wait to have the American volunteers visit," he said about the kids. "The kids can express themselves and play around. It also raises awareness for using English. The kids wanted to greet the volunteers in English, which is a noticeable change from normal. In the beginning, they were too shy to speak English; now they're a bit more outgoing."
Cole said since she's arrived on Kadena in March 2012, the Okinawa Outreach Committee has now visited the SAP six times, but this was the first time doing anything for the holidays.
"Normally we do games and play with the kids," Cole said. "I love it. We're actually interacting with the kids."
Okinawa Outreach is a community service-oriented program. According to Cole, who oversees the committee, it's important for service members to interact with the local community more frequently.
"I love to do community service," she said. "Any time I get the opportunity to get out in the local community, I jump on it. Because we are in Japan, and there's a culture difference, I think it's important to share our culture but also learn the Japanese culture."
Cole said the committee intends to return to the SAP, something Yoza said is very welcomed.
"I would like to have volunteers come back again," he said. "They're looking forward to them coming back."