Maj. Gen. Gregory Vadnais, adjutant general of the Michigan National Guard and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, along with members of the MING leadership team and Lt. Col. Timothy Brock, Michigan National Guard bilateral affairs officer to Latvia, visited the ‘We Are Near’ Rehabilitation Center in Riga, June 10, 2015. The visit allowed Vadnais to personally deliver a multi-station iPad charging dock and other technology tools intended to enhance learning at the center.
“The Michigan National Guard has contributed to the development of the center for many years,” Vadnais said when presenting the gifts. “But truthfully, the building improvements and learning tools we’ve donated over the years combined together and multiplied a million times still do not compare to the value of the services you provide to the children of Latvia,” said Vadnais, referring to the center’s founder and director, Dr. Andra Greitane.
Greitane and her small staff, evaluate and work primarily with children who have cerebral palsy but some have autism, down-syndrome, or other learning and motor-skill challenges. In a year, the center provides services to approximately 700 children. Some children need an evaluation and recommended care plan prepared in order to implement learning modifications within a traditional school environment. Others, like the seven month-old set of CP twins she referred to fondly, need full-time medical and physical care.
A children’s musical performance of Latvian songs welcomed the Michigan National Guard visitors, then Greitane gave a tour of the facility showcasing recent changes and equipment that make the rehabilitation center unique. Vadnais asked what items or issues remained on the wish list.
“Our biggest challenge right now is paying the heat bill in the winter months,” Greitane said. “The highest month last year was more than 3,000€ [about $3,400] and bills are paid out of staff salaries that are already stretched to the limit,” she added. “But if insulation was added to the walls and roof, and if windows were caulked and replaced in some areas, the heating bill could be much lower.”
Vadnais recommended a visit from the award-winning civil engineers of the 127th Wing for an energy evaluation to identify projects that would result in the greatest energy cost-savings.
As the Michigan National Guard visitors prepared to leave Greitane said, “Thank you Michigan National Guard for helping us keep the center operational. But more than anything, thank you for securing us, thank you for protecting us, it is so very important to know that we are safe and our children are safe, thank you so much.”