Kinder kindness: Meeting needs of children

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Anthony Plyler
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

As evacuees continue to pour onto Ramstein Air Base, Germany, due to the turmoil in Afghanistan, the 86th Airlift Wing in partnership with UNICEF and the U.S. Department of State, have set up an area for unaccompanied minors who arrive on base.

Many are unofficially calling the area the Kinder Pod with "kinder" being the German word for "child.”

"We are doing everything we can to make it a comfortable and happy place," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Maritza Andicoechea, 86th Operations Support Squadron weather flight commander. "On top of all of the essentials, we'll also have games and are working with our interpreters to get entertainment for our evacuees to help ease the tension."

The Kinder Pod has bedded areas which are separated by age and gender, a play pod complete with toys, crafts and blankets, a medical tent in case it's needed and also an area for soccer. The team also plans to have a jungle gym installed. Augmentees and volunteers working at the Kinder Pod are in civilian clothing in order to make the experience as comfortable as possible for each child.

To bridge the language barrier which may exist for some of the evacuees, the team has printed language and picture cards of food and other necessities so volunteers can identify what a child may need.

"I was a preschool teacher before joining the military, so I wanted to add that aspect to the Kinder Pod," Andicoechea said. "In working with the augmentees and volunteers, I'm also leaning on the military discipline that I've gained over my career so we can best organize our efforts and get these children the help they need as we get them where they need to be."

The Kinder Pod will have one volunteer per every 10 evacuees and more than one adult will be on standby for those children who need help being fed or bathed.

“We are extremely grateful and proud of our community for the prompt response to volunteer with us,” said Delaine Firman, Kinder Pod volunteer lead. “We have dozens of volunteers to include active duty, military retirees and spouses.” 

Andicoechea encourages anyone with experience in childcare, nursing or academia who would like to volunteer to reach out to their first sergeant for details.
"We really want to reconnect families,” Andicoechea said. “Obviously this is a very traumatic experience but just being able to help as many people as we can and to reconnect as many as we can with their families is a big win and knowing that it's possible is amazing."