Orphanage visit in South Sudan

Published on CPL Nick Wiseman (author and photographer)

Location(s): Juba, South Sudan

Air Force Sergeant Janelle Heise (back left), Air Force Squadron Leader Keith Bateman (middle left), Air Force Squadron Leader Daniel Olsen (front left), Navy Lieutenant Aaron Goedecke (right) and Lt-Col Adam Hogan (far right) with girls at a local orphanage in Juba, South Sudan. (photo: CPL Nick Wiseman)
Air Force Sergeant Janelle Heise (back left), Air Force Squadron Leader Keith Bateman (middle left), Air Force Squadron Leader Daniel Olsen (front left), Navy Lieutenant Aaron Goedecke (right) and Lt-Col Adam Hogan (far right) with girls at a local orphanage in Juba, South Sudan.

Australian Defence Force personnel deployed to Juba in South Sudan, as part of Operation ASLAN have used their spare time when not working with the United Nations to help out and cheer up children at two local orphanages.

Having previously visited a boys’ orphanage, the group recently visited a girls’ orphanage that housed 23 young girls ranging in ages from three to 13.

These girls often come from broken homes where families cannot afford to raise them but also some who have experienced suffering.

Navy's Lieutenant Aaron Goedecke came up with the idea and said it was touching to hear the stories and spend time with the children.

"Although what we do is very simple and not much to us, they cherish the extra company and are always excited when they see us return," he said.

"Everything we have passed on like balls and other items has been a success and the time that we have spent with both the boys and girls has been priceless."

The 23 girls are accommodated at the orphanage where they also eat and learn. The older children often take on 'older sister' or 'parental' roles assisting with looking after the younger children.

The team really enjoys spending time with the children and playing games with the boys, the girls also love having the extra company.

Air Force Sergeant Janelle Heise said it was great to see the difference the visits made to the children.

"It's wonderful to get out there and kick a ball around with them," she said.

"You have to be careful though, they are so wonderful and it is hard not to get attached."

Deputy Commander Australian Contingent Lieutenant Colonel Adam Hogan said the contingent was planning to hold a Christmas in July event for the children.

"We want to spoil them just like we do at Christmas back home for our own children," he said.

"It's just a good feeling to get out there and spend time with these kids."

Operation ASLAN is the deployment of Australian Defence Force personnel to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The Operation formally started on 23 September 2011. Australian Defence Force personnel transitioned to Operation ASLAN from Operation AZURE, Defence's contribution to the former United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).