Sailors Lend a Hand in Praia
By Lt. Justin K. Hadley, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Africa/Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs
PRAIA, Cape Verde – Sixteen Sailors from USS Simpson (FFG 56), six Cape Verdean Coast Guardsmen and school staff painted classrooms at the Escola Lavadouro School in Praia, Cape Verde, Apr. 20.
Simpson Sailors scraped away old paint, sanded down the walls and added several layers of paint to two classrooms that had previously been in considerable disrepair.
“I love doing this,” said Lt. j.g. Jason Gerontes, Simpson navigator and coordinator of the all-volunteer project. “I’ve participated in community outreach projects in Ghana, Nigeria, and now Cape Verde. I routinely have to turn people away; we have only 15 slots available and nearly 30 people volunteer for every outreach event.”
Escola Lavadouro, formerly a location where local Cape Verdeans did their laundry, was later converted into a school. Use from its previous life left damage to walls, floors and ceilings, but the Sailors’ and Coast Guardsmen’s project efforts significantly improved the conditions of the school, creating a better learning environment for the children. The school is primarily for kindergarten and first grade students.
“I think it is good action by the U.S.; I recommend you do it in many countries because, sometimes, people see the military and think it means war. This type of outreach shows the military does many things, like development,” said Mr. Aristides Cabral, the school director who was extremely grateful for the assistance and repairs made by the militaries of both Cape Verde and the U.S. “I want students to see the military and to know who did this.”
This sentiment was also felt by Culinary Specialist 1st Class Richard Williford, who did much of the detail paint work in the painted classrooms. “This is the best part of deployment. In my opinion, these kids are Africa’s future. They see us and know we, the military, are here to help.”
Simpson Sailors also distributed five Africa Partnership Station (APS) soccer balls to the children and they, along with the Cape Verdean Coast Guardsmen, played soccer with some of the children during recess.
“Participating in community outreach events provides a means for our Sailors to interact with people and experience different cultures during our African port visits – it puts a lot of things into perspective,” said Gerontes.
Simpson Sailors will depart Cape Verde to participate in Saharan Express, an annual maritime exercise that takes place in the East African region and is scheduled to begin in late April off the coast of Cape Verde and Senegal.