May 10, 2006

U.S. Airmen connect with elderly in Kyrgyzstan

Airmen share lunch, love with local elderly

By Staff Sgt. Lara Gale
376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- Olga finished school 70 years ago. After graduating, she became a teacher of Russian, German and finally mathematics for more than 30 years. She has so much to share about that time, but today, she has fewer and fewer people to hear her stories. Brothers and sisters, husbands and children have passed on or moved too far away to visit.

That's why lunch with the American Airmen is such a treat, said Tech. Sgt. Victoria Querido.

Thursday, Sgt. Querido led her final trip of the rotation, with a dozen Airmen from the medical group and chaplain's office here. The trip included a stop at the store, as always, where the Airmen pitched in to buy three large bags of groceries, and a stop at the offices of Babushka Adoption.

Babushka Adoption sponsors more than 700 babushkas and dedushkas – grandmothers and grandfathers – in Kyrgyzstan. It's not uncommon to see elderly people asking for handouts on the streets in this post-Soviet nation. Since the collapse of the Soviet economy, elderly people who have worked all their lives and once earned or anticipated earning a government pension have seen their pensions decrease to often less than $20 a month. Babushka Adoption seeks out those elderly most vulnerable – those with medical problems, those without family or friends to help – and supports them financially and socially.

Sgt Querido's group supports 20 of the agency's babushkas, bringing them money, clothing, food, and comfort items like blankets and linen.

The material and financial assistance is important, said Sergeant Querido, but what the women seem to appreciate the most is the love and friendship shared during the group's bi-monthly lunch outings.

"They really appreciate everything we do for them, you can see it in their eyes," she said. "The only time they ever get to be with people, and touch and give hugs is when we visit with them. Their husbands are all dead. A couple of have sons or daughters, but most of them don't see people unless they're from the foundation."

I encourage you to read the rest of this touching account of some of our benevolent Airmen.

Posted by Kyer at May 10, 2006 08:29 PM | TrackBack