SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia (Dec. 15, 2011) Personnel Specialist 2nd Class Richel Mila, left, and Religious Program Specialist 1st Class Maila Castillo, both assigned to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52), dance with children during a community service project at the Help the Cambodian Children Goodwill Center. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro)

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia (NNS) - Sailors assigned to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) and embarked Marines of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) took time out of their day Dec. 15., to participate in a community service project at the Help the Children of Cambodia (HtCC) Goodwill Center.

The HtCC center is a refuge for children to participate in recreational games such as dancing, gardening, English language classes and various other activities, instead of possibly roaming the streets or being exposed to human trafficking.

Henrik Olsson, the founder of the HtCC, said the program allows the children to develop important and necessary skills for the future.

"Many kids are not allowed to be kids," said Olsson. "Some parents tell their kids to go through garbage bin and go sell things on the beach. This is a center where they can always find some friends, play and take part in all the different activities."

Sailors and Marines took part in the project by playing games, coloring and dancing with the kids.

"I'm having a wonderful time right now," said Lance Cpl. Arthur Thomas. "I enjoy helping them be children again; they want to be kids and have fun."

Personnel Specialist 2nd Class Richel Mila echoed Thomas' sentiments and said the military's role is not just for warfighting, but also to provide humanitarian assistance.

"They're happy to see us and interact with us even though we don't speak the same language," said Mila. "We're helping bridge the cultural gap."

According to the HtCC's official website, in addition to being a refuge, the center also serves as medical helpline where children who are sick and injured are referred for medical treatment funded by the program.

Pearl Harbor deployed Nov. 14 in support of the Navy's Maritime Strategy and is currently conducting theater security cooperation missions in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR).

Pearl Harbor, along with amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) and amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18), make up the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG).

The mission of the Makin Island ARG is to help provide deterrence, promote peace and security, preserve freedom of the seas and provide humanitarian/disaster response as well as supporting the Navy's maritime strategy when forward deployed.

The U.S. 7th Fleet AOR includes more than 52 million square miles of the Pacific and Indian oceans, stretching from the international dateline to the east coast of Africa, and from the Kuril Islands in the north to the Antarctic in the south.

More than half of the world's population lives within the 7th Fleet AOR. In addition, more than 80 percent of that population lives within 500 miles of the oceans, which means this is an inherently maritime region.