A parent sets out to deploy and defend the freedom of millions. The children in these families are often left feeling alone, lost and unsure about the safety of their deployed parent. A great way to soothe the hearts and minds of the children who are left home is outreach through the Deployment Buddies program.
The Deployment Buddies program is a unique youth-to-youth partnership between the Ramstein High School and Ramstein Elementary School that allows students of deployed personnel to pair up with volunteer high school students once a month to help take their minds off the absence of their warfighting parents.
“We try to keep them busy by providing them with games, other fun activities and opportunities,” said Airman 1st Class Eric Welsh, 786th Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management journeymen and Deployment Buddies program director. “Our mentors help them keep a level head on their shoulders during this time of need.”
The mentors help their younger counterparts build communication skills in a group or one-on-one setting where they can voice concerns and express emotions associated with their parent’s deployment.
“It gives them the opportunity to meet with people who have experienced the same feelings and emotions,” Welsh said. “For most of these kids, it’s their first time not having their parents. They don’t really understand why, so we try to have the high school students keep them busy while providing them with everything they need to know.”
The discussions give younger students an idea of what to expect throughout the deployment cycle.
“The bottom line is the little kids needed someone to connect with,” said Fred Lopez, a Ramstein High School guidance counselor, in a previous article on www.af.mil. “They needed to feel like they weren’t alone in all of this.”
The program is open to children whose parents will deploy, are deployed or have recently returned. It is also available to members of the high school honor society and junior ROTC program volunteers who are capable of providing mentorship and comfort for the younger students.
The outreach provided by the mentors to the youth helps keep a positive outlook on a gloomy situation until the return of their deployed parent.
For more information, call the civil engineer squadron at 480-7672 or Ramstein Elementary School at 480-3996.