Sailors Connect with School Children in Cambodia
SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia - More than 50 Sailors from Commander, Amphibious Squadron 11 (CPR-11) took part in a community service project (COMSERV) at the Goodwill School here March 1 during a scheduled port visit.
The Goodwill School, constructed in 2004, offers local children a haven to learn English, computer skills, a place to dance and help with homework. All items at the school are acquired through donations.
The Sailors arrived at the center with items mostly acquired through their own personal funds. Shortly after arriving, students hurried out of the classrooms to greet them. Eager to practice their English skills, they quickly surrounded the volunteers for a group photo. Once introductions were out of the way, volunteers and children split into several groups to paint, talk, and play soccer and volleyball.
The shrieks of laughter filled the air, bringing about more children from the village and a few curious adults, who stood by watching the children interact with the Sailors. After most of the games were finished, a few children gathered in the classroom and put on a dance performance for the volunteers, who showed their approval with a round of applause.
Goodwill School Operations Manager Sabine Nerling said although the children are used to foreigners visiting the school and donating supplies, they seem to show a different appreciation whenever U.S. Navy personnel visit the center. “They love the attention and get excited about Sailors coming to visit,” she said. “They love the attention they receive from them.”
Seeing the enjoyment in the children’s faces is why Air Traffic Controller Airman Stacy Dryburgh volunteered to come to the COMSERV. “That’s one of the reasons I love about doing COMSERVs,” she said. “I love to see the kids and the reactions on their faces when we are here.”
Although the COMSERV was a chance for U.S. Sailors to play and teach the children, it also served as a chance for the volunteers to learn a little something themselves. “I got to learn some new games from the children,” said Operations Specialist Seaman Kenneth Crump. “I feel like volunteering for this COMSERV gave me a chance to gain volunteer experience and experience the Cambodian culture.”
COMSERVs serve as a means of U.S. Sailors to make new friends, as well as present a positive image of the U.S. Navy. It also helps Sailors get a chance to really indulge in other cultures and gain an understanding of experiencing life in their shoes. “I think everyone should experience a COMSERV,” said Dryburgh. “It gives you a different perspective of what it’s like to live in other countries.”
The Essex Amphibious Ready Group reports to Commander, Amphibious Force Seventh Fleet, Rear Adm. Richard Landolt, who is headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.