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Service members assist in upkeep of children’s home

By Lance Cpl. Courtney G. White | | February 8, 2012

Marines and sailors with Marine Aircraft Group 36 volunteered their time at Father Ray Children's Village here Feb. 8.

The 14 service members, who volunteered, spent their time landscaping the property, painting playground equipment and interacting with the children.

"Community relations activities like this one at Father Ray's are a great chance for the Marines and sailors to have a better perspective of different cultures," said Lt. j.g. Robert Chapa, the deputy chaplain with MAG-36.

"We are also able to show the people of Thailand that we are here to help with humanitarian assistance and are not just here for training."

The MAG-36 chaplain's office sent out a survey team before the beginning of Exercise Cobra Gold 2012 to choose a community relations organization who they believed were in need of the most help, said RP3 Greyson Harrelson, the lead religious program specialist with MAG-36.

 The foundation does so much for the children of Thailand, and they need all the support they can get so it was easy to choose to help them, said Harrelson.

"It really is a humbling experience for us to see that there are people worse off than ourselves," said Cpl. Eric J. Hansen, an aviation communication system technician with Marine Air Support Squadron 2. "You also get the opportunity to see the other side of Thailand besides the tourist areas."

You definitely acquire a deeper appreciation for what you have, said Hansen.

Father Ray Children's Village is part of the Father Ray Foundation which was founded in 1974 by an Irish-American priest who wanted to help children in need. The foundation prides itself on its motto, "We never turn a needy child away".

"The foundation is here to be the love and care that the children need to prosper in life," said Derek Franklin, the public relations international fundraising director for the foundation. "Some of the children here are just in need of support and courage."

The Father Ray Children's Village currently houses 53 children in their 10-house facility and the children who live in the village are encouraged to stay as long as they would like, said Franklin.

The Father Ray Foundation has created numerous other organizations including a school for the deaf, a daycare for under privileged children, and a school for the disabled. The chaplains and units participating in Exercise Cobra Gold 2012 have scheduled 19 community relations activities which will run various days throughout the exercise.