KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia (NNS) -- Sailors from submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) and Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Louisville (SSN 724) help improve the quality of life for children at Bukit Harapan Therapeutic Community Orphanage in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, April 5.
Bukit Harapan Orphanage is a non-profit organization for the physically and mentally handicapped. Established by founder Anne "Mama Anne" Keyworth on Nov. 8, 1989 under the Malaysian Trustees Ordinance Act, this facility offers children and adults the trust and love of a family; a family that Sailors from Land and Louisville are now a part of, said Keyworth.
"Everyone who helps out my children, the orphans, is considered family," she said. "I'm so glad that the children deem themselves brothers and sisters with Sailors from the U.S. Navy."
Bukit Harapan currently has 46 residents from ages four to 54 years old, some of whom live with cerebral palsy and other special needs. According to Keyworth, a couple of the orphanage's objectives are to help special needs children understand, handle and develop their emotions in a proper direction; foster, as much as possible, the healing of their mental, emotional and physical health; and ultimately train them according to their individual capabilities so they may become self dependant.
"Everything my staff and I do is for the children and women who stay here," said Keyworth. "We are not government funded, so everything is donated. We do as much as we can to help them succeed. Truly the Sailors' efforts here today are a blessing that we will never forget."
Land's religious ministries department worked together with the orphanage and the Kota Kinabalu Rotary Club to put the event together, with 30 Sailors and one civilian mariner volunteering during their off time to perform maintenance and socialize with the children.
"It's the people that drive community service projects," said Religious Program Specialist 1st Class Norman Oehring. "If it wasn't for all the volunteers who showed up to help, this never would have been accomplished. The orphans greatly valued all of our support."
Originally, Sailors planned to spend the day playing with the children. However, several Sailors from Land's repair department went to the site to conduct repairs on a basketball hoop, the facility's water reservoir, playground equipment and even the roof of the orphanage itself.
"I'm just glad I could help out," said Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class (SW) Josh Taylor. "Seeing the kids' faces as they play on the equipment that we fixed is definitely well worth my time."
Another eager volunteer, Chief Sonar Technician Submarine (SS) Winfred Cameron, attached to Louisville, said that their involvement had a major impact on the community.
"It couldn't have gone any better," Cameron said. "It was a chance for the tender and submarine to interact with children who needed our help and care."
According to Keyworth, it has always been the goal of Bukit Harapan to aid the helpless, from young to old. The orphanage is grateful that many individuals from the local community, including the U.S. Navy, give their support in the form of donating time, effort and smiles.
"The Sailors not only helped with repairs and play time," she said. "They helped the orphans find confidence in life again, and to look forward to the future."
The U.S. Navy has been the first military service to provide support to the orphanage.
Land is in Malaysia conducting a coordinated tended mooring with Louisville as part of a theater security cooperation and good will mission in the region. Land is currently on an extended deployment to Guam serving as 7th Fleet's lead afloat fleet maintenance activity from the ship's permanent home port of Diego Garcia.
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