LOTUS RIVER, South Africa (NNS) -- USS Stephen W. Groves (FFG 29) and South African Sailors participated in a community relations (COMREL) project at the Buck Road Primary School in Lotus River, South Africa, Feb. 15.
During the COMREL the Sailors joined forces to give the school a fresh coat of paint and continue the strong working partnership between South Africa and the United States.
"In the U.S., we have so much to be thankful for," said Cmdr. Matthew S. Rick, USS Stephen W. Groves commanding officer. "It is always a great thing for the ship's crew to be able to extend those blessings to other countries. To work jointly with the South African Navy as a team on this project made the whole experience even more rewarding."
Gurardine Herbet, the school principal, mentioned that the school had faced many difficulties with funding and crime in the area, and that volunteers, such as the Sailors from the South African and United States Navy, help keep the school running.
"They [the South African and United States Navy] have given us the start we need to accomplish more with the facilities we have," said Herbert. "To see the school painted will improve the morale among the teachers, parents and students. Our teachers work tirelessly to ensure our students receive the best possible education. Without volunteers we wouldn't be able to provide the crucial services we now offer, or even upkeep for our facilities."
Buck Road Primary School was opened in 1973 and currently has more than 750 students enrolled from kindergarten to 7th grade.
"I hope people see that the U.S. tries to help their neighbors," said Herbert. "You don't always hear the positive things U.S. troops do around the world, but we are very thankful they came to Buckroad and hope they can visit South Africa again."
For many of the Sailors from Stephen W. Groves, the positive experience of this COMREL event left them wanting to do more.
"This was my first COMREL with the Navy," said Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Christopher M. Neef. "It felt good to be able meet and help the kids. I've already contacted my church, and we are going to try and get more supplies to them. Helping people is why I joined the Navy, and it feels good to get to do something like this where you can see the good you are doing."
USS Stephen W. Groves, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate homeported in Mayport, Fla., visited South Africa to strengthen the military partnership between South African and United States naval forces through joint-military exercises and training.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/naveur/.