By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Alan Gragg, Amphibious Squadron 5 Public Affairs
SINGAPORE (NNS) — Sailors and Marines assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), along with a surprise visitor from the North Pole, brought holiday gifts to children at the “Child at Street 11″ care center in Singapore, Dec. 22.
The event was part of a scheduled community service project during the ship’s port visit, and Chief Warrant Officer Marc Lefebvre saw the opportunity to bring smiles to children’s faces.
He dressed as Santa Claus and presented gifts to the children, along with other Sailors and Marines from Makin Island.
“Even though I don’t get to be with my kids, it’s nice to still be with kids and celebrate this time of year,” said Lefebvre. “Most of the community service projects I’ve done involve a lot of maintenance and upkeep, but one the unique thing about this one was that you got to see the reaction of what it meant to the people you were helping, and I think the kids really enjoyed it.”
Lulu Suresh, an English teacher at the center, said having special visitors is memorable for the children.
“At Street 11, the children basically come from disadvantaged, dysfunctional families,” said Suresh. “So when they saw Santa Claus coming, you could really see their excitement, and hear it too.”
“Once he sat down, they were trying to figure out if he was the real Santa, taking his hat off and having lots of fun,” she added.
One Makin Island Sailor, who speaks Chinese-Mandarin, interacted with a group of girls using two languages during the event.
“In Chinese, we did a simple introduction-’What’s your name? Where are you from? and how old are you?’ but they wanted to practice their English too,” said Logistics Specialist Seaman Danni Li.
“They also told me they were so surprised to see us, and they said they were so happy to get lots of gifts this Christmas,” Li added.
After Santa gave each child a present, the children opened their gifts with help from the Sailors and Marines and spent the rest of the time playing together.
“We basically made the children a little bit happier, for one day at least,” said Sgt. Jared Buell, assigned to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). “Coming here and just seeing their facial expressions, receiving the gifts, it was a good thing.”
Buell shared a photo of his own children with the Street 11 kids and said he was happy to see some youthful smiles this time of year.
“I wanted to help out and be around children,” said Buell. “Not being around mine, I felt like this was a good thing to do, since I’m missing some big seasons being away from home.”
For their appreciation of the gifts, the children presented the most senior military member in attendance, Capt. Humberto L. Quintanilla II, commander of Amphibious Squadron 5, with a photo plaque.
Child at Street 11 is a multi-racial, secular, independent, non-profit organization dedicated to helping low-income and dysfunctional families provide quality early years for their children.
Makin Island and the embarked 11th MEU departed San Diego Nov. 14 and are currently deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR), supporting the nation’s maritime strategy.
The mission of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group is to help provide deterrence, promote peace and security, preserve freedom of the seas and provide humanitarian/disaster response as well as supporting the Navy’s Maritime Strategy when forward deployed.
The 7th Fleet AOR includes more than 52 million square miles of the Pacific and Indian oceans, stretching from the international date line to the east coast of Africa, and from the Kuril Islands in the north to the Antarctic in the south.
More than half of the world’s population lives within the 7th Fleet AOR. In addition, more than 80 percent of that population lives within 500 miles of the oceans, which means this is an inherently maritime region.
For more news from USS Makin Island (LHD 8), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd8/.