Corrections Officer Coordinates Humanitarian Aid Trips to Kyrgyzstan
Dave Cormier, a sergeant at the Department of Corrections, got his first taste of volunteering in Kyrgyzstan in 2009 while serving in the NH Air National Guard. In his off-duty hours, he worked 12-hour shifts helping at an orphanage.
Cormier said he went to the orphanage just wanting to help, and what he saw changed him.
“When I went to Kyrgyzstan, It seemed that the majority of the population was struggling tremendously,” he said. “At the orphanage, you hear these kids crying for their mother and father. It really changes your mindset.”
During that 2009 deployment, he said he made 13 trips to that orphanage. When he was finally headed home, he said his mind was made up.
“I just said to myself, I’m coming back,” Cormier said.
So upon returning home, he connected with an organization run by a family to help people in Kyrgyzstan, and he began planning his return to the country. His first trip, he made alone. By 2014, he had a small contingent travelling with him, including two colleagues and his 14-year-old son. During this trip, the group purchased and delivered coal and food, helped to build fences, garden and farm, and they purchased and delivered livestock. They hired a clown to perform numerous shows at the orphanage, and even took orphans bowling and fishing. You can watch a video from the trip here.
During the trip, Cormier said he saw incredible growth in his son.
“The amazing thing with my son was that when we went out there, it was like we had another adult,” Cormier said. “He really matured, when I look at the way he’d help with the orphans and see the passion he was showing.”
Before they left, Cormier said his son had made up his mind about returning.
“He said to me, ‘you’re never coming back here without me again,’ ” Cormier said.
Since that trip, he said he’s seen positive changes in his son. Cormier said the work has had a deep impact on him, as well.
“I used to say you never realize how good you have it until you see how bad others have it,” Cormier said. “I realize how good I have it and I’ve come to appreciate life so much more.”
Cormier said seeing the impact of his work makes him want to help all the more.
“I had one woman tell me that if it wasn’t for something I’d done, she wouldn’t be alive,” he said. “All I did, that she said saved her life, it cost me just $125.”
Of course, just being there for people can be of even greater value.
“One of the biggest ways to have an effect is as simple as holding the hand of a child,” Cormier said. “There are some things you can do that don’t cost any money at all.”
Cormier is planning to return to Kyrgyzstan in mid-October. He covers his own expenses for the trip, but is accepting any donations to help the children at the orphanage, but also the elderly, homeless and hungry. If you’re interested in helping with a donation or even finding out more about his trips, you can email Cormier at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also read more about the group he works with at http://actofkindness.blogspot.com/.