News: Lives changed by Pacific Partnership; special needs school receives donations
By: Lt. Cmdr. Robert S. Thoms
ESPIRITU SANTO, Vanuatu – Amphibious transport dock ship USS Cleveland, the first U.S. Navy ship anchored in Luganville Bay since World War II, and New Zealand multi-role vessel HMNZS Canterbury moored pier side have their crews working non-stop as part of the Pacific Partnership 2011 humanitarian assistance mission here in Vanuatu.
Pacific Partnership 2011 runs April 28 - May 9. The medical, dental and engineering projects, as well as community service events at local schools and churches, includes representatives from Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, and the United States.
“We and our hosts are very pleased with our progress thus far here in Vanuatu,” said Capt. Jesse A. Wilson, commander, Destroyer Squadron 23 and mission commander of Pacific Partnership 2011. “While Vanuatu and the U.S. share a history dating back to World War II, this is the first time we have had the opportunity to include Vanuatu as a key Pacific Partnership nation. It is especially gratifying to know we are truly impacting the lives of our host in meaningful ways like today at the Frangipani School, where we delivered several bikes, sporting equipment and school materials for the children who call this school home.”
“You rarely have the opportunity to truly impact peoples lives like we have here today,” said Lt. Phillip Ridley, Pacific Partnership chaplain and director of community service events. “Hugs and thanks were given by kids and adults alike.”
The bikes and other materials were part of a humanitarian assistance donation of wheelchairs and walkers by Project Handclasp and Pacific Partnership 2011in an effort to provide support for underserved communities here in Espiritu Santo. U.S. Navy sailors, New Zealand Defense Force soldiers and local ni-Vanuatu community members built the bikes after they were donated to the school. Within hours, the kids were riding, laughing and playing on the Nakamal soccer field.
Tony and Dorian Maliutis are the school directors and they worked closely with the Pacific Partnership team to ensure this day would happen for the kids of Frangipani.
The Frangipani School is the only special needs school on the Island of Santo, and the many goods and special hand-pedaled bikes were an instant hit with the students and instructors. The school has more than 75 kids that it provides services and schooling for the coming year. The children can now ride a bike – many of them for the first time in their lives.
In Espiritu Santo, partner nations and non-government organizations of Pacific Partnership engaged in engineering, dental, medical and veterinary civil assistance projects and subject matter expert exchanges designed to increase interoperability between host nations and partner nations. The multi-national team is also developing sustainable solutions for environmental and social challenges in the region.
Pacific Partnership is an annual humanitarian assistance mission sponsored by the U.S. Pacific Fleet, designed to enhance relationships in the region and interoperability with partner nations.
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