Camp Schwab, OKINAWA, Japan – Thousands of miles away from home, Marines volunteer to promote literacy for military children. The USO Camp Schwab is the northern most USO on the island of Okinawa. It is located aboard Camp Schwab, home to both service members stationed on Okinawa, and those on deployment as part of the Unit Deployment Program (UDP), from the United States. ‘Storytime with Schwab’ is a monthly literacy-based reading program, an extension of USO’s Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program, USO Schwab hosts aboard Camp Courtney where families reside. The program exists to provide volunteer service members aboard Camp Schwab an opportunity to feel closer to their home and country by making connections with military families and children. Within the program, volunteer service members are also provided an opportunity to venture off Camp Schwab and visit another military installation on Okinawa.
On Friday, October 15th, USO Schwab hosted an “Ooey Gooey” themed Storytime with Schwab program. The program consisted of a Halloween themed coloring activity, making “ooey gooey” slime, and listening to a reading of “Don’t Push the Button, A Halloween Treat,” by Bill Cotter.
Within the program, service members a.k.a. “reading buddies” are paired with military children, ages three through eight, where they work together in pairs to complete a guided craft and coloring activity. The purpose of the activities is to support the development and advancement of fine motor skills. Additionally, children can practice their social skills and attention to detail with the support of their reading buddy. Keeping the growth and development of the children in mind, USO Schwab staff work to determine age-appropriate activities while working closely with the volunteers in preparation for each program.
“From my experience, it’s essential for kids to socialize and surround themselves with new people and enjoy their youth”, USO volunteer reading buddy, Corporal Malcolm Patterson, shared.
“I have been to all but one Storytime with Schwab since the start of the program. It’s so fun interacting with the kids and I have gotten to know some of them very well over the course of the program. Being stationed on Okinawa and especially Camp Schwab, the program is a welcome release and reminds me of my little cousins back home,” Corporal Zachary Tate, USO volunteer reading buddy reported.
Following the guided activities portion of the program, children and their buddies gather in a circle to hear a story reading by a volunteer reader. This portion of the program provides children with an opportunity to exercise active listening skills and engage with the volunteer reader.
“Storytime with Schwab is my favorite event with USO Schwab. While being on this UDP, being a part of this event makes me reminisce of home and taking care of little ones as I used to babysit my Taekwondo master’s kids and my family,” USO volunteer reader, Corporal Jeremiah Dingle, shared when asked what he thought of the program following this month’s program. “Sharing motivation and positive energy with the kids and families is a rewarding experience.”
While the children are working in pairs with their reading buddies, parents, and their children under age three are grouped together where they can engage in conversation and build friendships.
“Storytime with Schwab has been an amazing program for my son to attend,” Sussy Molina, a longtime participating parent and military spouse said. “It has helped build his confidence and provide lots of fun. It also helps Marines not feel so isolated.”
Another participating parent and military spouse, Sarah Cox shared, “My family has been so blessed by Storytime with Schwab. Living overseas in normal circumstances provides unique challenges because you are so far from family, and it can feel very isolating at times. You just don’t always feel like there is someone in your corner, for your kids. When you throw the COVID card into the mix it has been extra tough to just find events for the kids to look forward to, where they can connect with someone and make a buddy, and just have something just for them to look forward to. My kids really adore this program. They look forward to it every month and my oldest daughter is very, very shy; this experience has really helped her work on her shyness when meeting new people. This has been a wonderful program. I highly recommend Storytime with Schwab, and I’m so thankful for all the volunteers!”
USO Schwab’s Storytime with Schwab program is typically held the third Friday of every month. You can visit USO Schwab’s Facebook page @Usoschwab, to find details on the next program. Registration for the event is required.
To find out what’s happening across Okinawa at the USO centers, visit Okinawa.USO.Org or find it on Facebook
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