REAM, Cambodia - A team of U.S. Navy Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11 (NMCB 11) partnered with Royal Cambodian Army (RCAF) engineers here over the last month, going beyond the original project to build a variety of facilities for children at Hun Sen High School.
“We came here to build a head facility at the school to double the capacity for latrines and repair their only well,” said U.S. Navy Builder 2nd Class Donald Jones, project leader for the engineering civic action project.
“The new building is about 140 square feet. It’s got a latrine system with a leach field. They don’t have much of a septic system around here because of the soils; most of the time waste just drains where it does. Our new latrine and leach field will really help because it will last a long time,” he added.
Nearly a month after arriving, Jones, his 17-man Seabee team and 15 RCAF engineers went far beyond the basic requirements of their mission. They added a full-size cement basketball court with brand new hoops, nets and basketballs, retrofitted the school’s entrance gate and even repaired water pumps for wells in the surrounding areas, restoring water services for residents in three villages.
“This school [Hun Sen High School] only had one hand-operated well and it wasn’t working,” said U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Raul Cuevas, officer in charge for NMCB 11. “After we retrofitted the one here, some of the local people told us about wells in the surrounding area that hadn’t been working for years. So we just got some additional materials and fixed three out in town. Most of them just needed to be retrofitted or re-drilled since some were too deep or too shallow. Now they’re done right and bringing water where it hasn’t been in a long time,” he added.
Just as the engineering teams were finishing up work last week, they learned students were also crossing a very dangerous bridge made of three logs laid over a drainage canal en route to school. Jones and his team used leftover tresses and cement to improvise a new and safe bridge for the children to cross.
“We even had a cow cross it last week,” said Jones. “I think we can safely say it will hold up for the kids,” he added.
The U.S. Navy Seabees and RCAF engineers also made time to stop work and play with local children from the school and surrounding areas. “Working with the kids was great. They liked to bring their toys by and we gave them candy every day,” said Jones.