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Airmen Donate Clothes, Sports Equipment to Malian Communities
U.S. Air Force members supporting a medical exercise in Bamako, Mali delivered more than 2,500 pounds of clothing, toys, and sports equipment to two local orphanages July 16, 2008. <br /> <br />&#34;When I heard about this clothing drive, it
BAMAKO, Mali - Staff Sergeant Mouhamed Gadiaga presents Nene Duattara, Bamako National Orphanage director, with boxes of donated clothes collected from U.S. Air Force members and their families July 16, 2008. Gadiaga is one of more than 90 U.S. service members deployed to Bamako for MEDFLAG 08, a multi-national medical training exercise designed to enhance medical capabilities and readiness for U.S. and African forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Weaver)
2 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 1 of 2: BAMAKO, Mali - Staff Sergeant Mouhamed Gadiaga presents Nene Duattara, Bamako National Orphanage director, with boxes of donated clothes collected from U.S. Air Force members and their families July 16, 2008. Gadiaga is one of more than 90 U.S. service members deployed to Bamako for MEDFLAG 08, a multi-national medical training exercise designed to enhance medical capabilities and readiness for U.S. and African forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Weaver) Download full-resolution version
BAMAKO, Mali - U.S. Air Force members from Aviano Air Base, Italy, present boxes of donated clothes, shoes and toys to a local orphanage in Bamako, Mali, on July 16, 2008. The service members deployed to Mali for MEDFLAG 08, a 19-day medical training exercise designed to enhance medical capabilities and readiness for U.S. and African forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Weaver)
2 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 2 of 2: BAMAKO, Mali - U.S. Air Force members from Aviano Air Base, Italy, present boxes of donated clothes, shoes and toys to a local orphanage in Bamako, Mali, on July 16, 2008. The service members deployed to Mali for MEDFLAG 08, a 19-day medical training exercise designed to enhance medical capabilities and readiness for U.S. and African forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Weaver) Download full-resolution version
BAMAKO, Mali - Staff Sergeant Mouhamed Gadiaga presents Nene Duattara, Bamako National Orphanage director, with boxes of donated clothes collected from U.S. Air Force members and their families July 16, 2008. Gadiaga is one of more than 90 U.S. service members deployed to Bamako for MEDFLAG 08, a multi-national medical training exercise designed to enhance medical capabilities and readiness for U.S. and African forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Weaver)
BAMAKO, Mali - U.S. Air Force members from Aviano Air Base, Italy, present boxes of donated clothes, shoes and toys to a local orphanage in Bamako, Mali, on July 16, 2008. The service members deployed to Mali for MEDFLAG 08, a 19-day medical training exercise designed to enhance medical capabilities and readiness for U.S. and African forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Weaver)
U.S. Air Force members supporting a medical exercise in Bamako, Mali delivered more than 2,500 pounds of clothing, toys, and sports equipment to two local orphanages July 16, 2008.

"When I heard about this clothing drive, it really hit home for me," said Staff Sergeant Mohammed Gadiaga, a 31st Medical Group bio-engineer and native of Senegal. "I was born right next door to Mali and I knew how much this could benefit a third-world country."

Gadiaga is one of more than 90 service members deployed to Bamako for MEDFLAG 08, a multi-national medical training exercise designed to enhance medical capabilities and readiness for U.S. and African forces.

The 89 boxes of clothing, toys and shoes were divided between two orphanages housing more than 100 children and will also be distributed to Malian families in need who line up at the orphanage to receive milk and medication.

"It means so that the military traveled all this way to help our country and to bring these clothes to us," said Nene Duattara, Bamako National Orphanage director. "Today is very emotional for us; thank you."

Airmen visiting the orphanage also had an opportunity to spend some time with the infants and children living there.

"I had no idea when I first starting helping with this clothing drive what the impact might be," said Staff Sergeant Manuel Ortiz. When I was finally able to hold the children in my arms who received these clothes, I choked up -- it was such a humbling experience."

Next week, the MEDFLAG team will visit four different villages providing medical care to an estimated 600 patients a day. At each village, Malians will receive two bags of soccer balls, two bags of shoes and one bag of sport's uniforms.

"We picked soccer equipment to donate because it's what they live and breathe for here," said Gadiaga, who remembers playing it every day growing up in Senegal. "With just one ball, you get 20 plus people playing and it makes their day."

"We touched a lot of lives today and all the work that went into this makes it all worthwhile," he added.
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