SASEBO, Japan (April 13, 2011) Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) listen as residents of the Sakura Challenged Home sing a song in thanks for their assistance. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cheryl Callahan)

SASEBO, Japan (NNS) - USS George Washington (CVN73) Sailors spent some of their liberty time in Sasebo, Japan, with residents of the Sakura Challenged Home for handicapped citizens, April 12.

The volunteers cleaned the grounds of the facility, washed windows and watered plants.

"This particular community service (COMSERVE) event was an excellent opportunity to give our Sailors a chance to meet with some of the local people and help the community," said Lt. Cmdr. Jose Pimentel, USS George Washington chaplain. "This particular project also gave them a chance to interact with people of a capacity that they may not be used to interacting with or may not be comfortable interacting with."

The Challenged Home has been in operation for approximately 10 years and has 25 volunteers who help out during the week. The residents consist of people that are either physically handicapped, mentally handicapped or both. The residents spend the majority of their time learning to cope with their disabilities while making bread to sell to the local community. This serves as a way to keep them gainfully employed.

At the conclusion of the visit, the residents sang several songs and danced to show their appreciation for the work the Sailors completed. Sailors were then given the chance to sample the different breads made by the residents.

"This was a really nice trip," said Logistics Specialist Seaman Samuel Bly, from Marais, Minn. "I'm glad we could help out and after this experience I plan on doing more COMSERVEs."

"One of the bonuses of having these COMSERVEs is that when one person participates for the first time, they're hooked," said Pimentel. "This is the case for many Sailors, and not just from George Washington. They tend to sign up for multiple COMSERVEs events in the future because the very first event they participated in was such a positive and rewarding experience for them."

George Washington has been underway since March 21, after departing her forward-deployed homeport of Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, in response to the complex nature of the natural disaster that struck Japan, March 11.

George Washington is the Navy's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier, ensuring security and stability across the western Pacific Ocean.

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