PORT VICTORIA, Seychelles (NNS) -- Crew members of the guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) helped rebuild an orphanage while the ship was here for a brief visit June 17.
More than 30 Gonzalez Sailors volunteered at the orphanage, which is operated by St. Elizabeth's Convent and which was devastated by the December 2004 tsunami that wreaked havoc on the islands.
"The tsunami damaged our daycare center, and it hasn't been repaired yet," said Sister Aime. "The American Navy has assisted the convent in the past, and is the only navy that has provided assistance to our center."
Upon arrival at the convent, Sister Aime met the leader of the Gonzalez group, Lt. Jim Sposato, the ship's combat systems officer, and welcomed the team to the area. She explained the specific problems that needed to be addressed, including a hole in the roof of the orphanage, plumbing problems and peeling paint on the building's exterior.
The Gonzalez crew members immediately went into action to perform the needed repairs.
"When we took a look at the plumbing problems they were having, we noted that a number of showers and toilets were inoperable. The biggest problem was that the convent did not have the proper parts to effect the repairs," said Hull Technician 1st Class John Cleghon. "In order to ensure that we fixed the problems, the Gonzalez team held a collection and donated over $300 to buy the necessary parts and supplies not already provided by the husbanding agent."
About two hours into the project, many of the children were returning to the orphanage from school. Many of the crew members stopped their tasks to engage the children and play with them.
"The children seemed really excited to have us there. They enjoyed the food we brought for them, as well as the playtime as they ran around the center," said Fire Controlman 1st Class Franklin Bogus. "Their happy smiles were definitely worth the time spent over at the orphanage."
By the end of the project, the Gonzalez crew members had fixed four toilets, two showers, a large hole in the roof, and painted the front faade of the building.
"Gonzalez was able to do an enormous amount of work in the little time we had. All this was due to the prior planning and coordination before we arrived, as well as the hard work demonstrated by the 32 sailors who volunteered their time today," said Sposato.
Sister Aime thanked everyone who attended the event, and wished Gonzalez a safe voyage. The crew members said goodbye to the children and thanked Sister Aime for her hospitality, feeling proud of their accomplishments as they headed back to their ship.
Gonzalez is part of the Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group, currently on station for a six month deployment to conduct Maritime Security Operations (MSO). Maritime Security Operations set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment and complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. MSO deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.
For related news, visit the USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/ddg66/.