HONG KONG, People’s Republic of China --
Eighteen Marines and Sailors, from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit spent the day helping children at the Ma Tau Chung Nursery School in Hong Kong, Nov. 19.
Service members visited the school during a port visit by the USS Essex (LHD 2) while on deployment in the Asia-Pacific region.
“This is a great day for all the children here,” said Snow Cheng, principal of the school. “We can all join together and enjoy our time with our U.S. Marine visitors.”
The Marines and Sailors spent several hours at the nursery school, playing games and doing activities like finger-painting and creating artwork with the kindergarten-aged students.
“This is a good opportunity to show that we care about the community and to serve them,” said Lance Cpl. Nathan Karasch, rifleman, Company C., Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 31st MEU. “My favorite part was playing a game with all the kids screaming and running around. They are just like kids back at home - kids are kids.”
After the fun activities were completed, the volunteers painted the front entrance and interior walls of the school. They also cleaned up around the school property.
Kitty Lau, a kindergarten teacher, helped the Marine volunteers. “It is good to have our visitors today; our kids are happy because the Marines are here. Thank you so much for helping us make our school beautiful.”
The nursery school is operated by the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children, which cares for children by providing a stimulating environment in which to educate them and nurture their growth and development, according to their website.
Many of the children come from less privileged and/or families with acute social problems, said Cheung. The school also helps educate parents on age-appropriate parenting. “This volunteer work not only helps the children, it also helps develop the relationship between the citizens of Hong Kong and the visiting military members,” said Cheng. “We welcome the Marines to our school.”
Cmdr. Raymond Bailey, 31st MEU chaplain, organized the event for the Marines. “Today was awesome, we had lots of fun. We get to do painting and help the school, and we are rewarded by spending time with the kids – it is the best of both worlds,” said Bailey. “The Marines are all about advancing and enhancing their relationships.”
Gunnery Sgt. Tobin Orr, staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge, communications detachment, 31st MEU, lent his expertise as a former professional painter to the job, and commented on the meaningful nature of the volunteer work.
“This is absolutely important for the relationship between the service members and the people of Hong Kong,” said Orr. “It is great to be around little kids who just enjoy you being around and don’t have any preconceived notions. They appreciate us so much, and we are proud to be here.”
Pictures taken of the students and the visiting Marines and Sailors will go up on the school bulletin boards so the school can remember their U.S. military friends.