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Air Force family provides hope to Dayton, Ohio refugees in need

Retired Senior Master Sgt. Pete Peel and his wife Ning help refugee children and teens in the Dayton, Ohio area. They are pictured with Tole Kikubi, a refugee from Congo.

Retired Senior Master Sgt. Pete Peel and his wife Ning help refugee children and teens in the Dayton, Ohio area. They are pictured with Tole Kikubi, a refugee from Congo. Pete is now a civilian employee at WPAFB.

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio - For retired Senior Master Sgt. Pete Peel, helping refugees in the Dayton area means giving boys a positive male role model. Pete’s wife Ning is the leader of the family when it comes to helping refugees in the Miami Valley. Pete helps while working his busy civilian job as a program manager for AFLCMC.

“Pete and I have always helped our community, no matter what base we’ve stationed at,” explains Ning. “Whenever anyone at all would mention there’s a family in need.”

It turns out there are many immigrant and refugee families in need in the Dayton area. Hundreds, in fact. A recent article in the Dayton Daily News helped highlight one refugee family and the Peel’s involvement. This news coverage put a renewed spotlight on Dayton as an immigrant friendly city.

Sports columnist Tom Archdeacon highlighted Kettering-Fairmont football player Tole Kikubi, his siblings and how Pete and Ning challenged him to explore football. Tole is excelling as an outside linebacker and serves as a role model for his teammates and siblings. Coaches say he lights up the locker room.

Like all the refugees they help, the Peels enjoy encouraging Tole, both on and off the field.

Ning was born in Thailand and moved to the United States when she was 10. Pete was in the Air Force for 14 years before he met and married Ning.  During their military years, Pete and Ning and their two children moved five times, becoming an integral part of each community where they settled. In the couple’s early days, they would host casual open house events for the Airmen stationed away from family during the holidays. These low-pressure invitations ended up being quite successful and the Peel’s recall many happy holiday seasons with houses full of people.

“We just tried to be nice and extend common courtesy to younger folks because they had nowhere to go during the holiday times,” explains Pete. “I was real big [on this] because my bosses were always really big on ‘being a family.’ The military is family.”

Before the pandemic changed daily life, Ning and several volunteers would host regular Friday night gatherings for refugees at her church in Beavercreek. The evenings consisted of pizza, exercise, games and laughter. COVID-19 means such gatherings are not possible right now, but Ning is hopeful the kids will be back together soon.

“If I had my dream, each church every Friday [would] take turns [hosting]. Just provide snacks, pick them up and have them in one place to play basketball, volleyball, dance.”

Ning takes it upon herself to get many refugees ready for both driving and citizenship tests. This often means helping the teens learn English and raising funds for the $650 per person to obtain citizenship. To raise money, Ning leads the charge in holding garage sales and she also sells Thai food. She is willing to hustle for an important cause.

Pete is more reserved in his approach to helping those in need.

“There are hundreds of refugees in Dayton. I don’t like attention,” says Pete. “I just want people to know there is a need out there. Some people can give money, some people can give time, some people can give talent or skilled training.”

If you would like to help Pete and Ning with their efforts, send an email to handstohelp@protonmail.com.