No additional reporting by missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan
Officers and crew from the USS Rodney M Davis visited the Kudakudhinge Hiya orphanage or children’s home in Vilimalé yesterday (October 8 ) and assisted with painting and repairs.
“The American sailors also worked with a local environment group Save the Beach Maldives to clean up island debris later that afternoon,” reads a press release from the US embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
The USS Rodney M Davis – an Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate with the US 7th Fleet – visited the Maldives this week on its last tour of duty.
The 27-year-old, 4000-ton, 435-feet long, and 45-feet wide frigate is due to be retired by the US Navy. Local journalists were invited for a tour of the ship on Tuesday (October 7).
In its last major operation in 2010, the frigate seized over 1,500kg of drugs from a vessel in the South Pacific Ocean.
Vice Admiral Robert Thomas said earlier this week that he expected the visit to the Maldives would be “tremendously beneficial to build on our excellent relationships with the maritime nations of the Indian Ocean.”
“The area is critical to regional security, and the partnerships we build with this training will go a long way to creating a more professional and stable maritime environment,” he was quoted as saying in an earlier press release.
The embassy meanwhile noted that the sailors volunteered their personal “liberty” time to participate in the activities in Vilimalé yesterday with support from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and Ministry of Law and Gender.
“Time off is very precious because our sailors put in long hours while we are at sea,” said Lt. Russell Wolfkiel, public affairs officer for the Rodney M. Davis.
“One of the highlights of deployment is the opportunity to engage with the local communities when we visit exotic ports like Maldives.”
The American sailors repainted the interior of the orphanage while special fire safety trainers explained how to service fire extinguishers and demonstrated their proper usage.
“This is very important for us. We are very appreciative of your team to come here and do some painting and to take some time to explain the fire alarm systems,” said Mohamed Shafeeg, deputy director of Kudakudhinge Hiyaa.
A second group of sailors meanwhile joined a clean-up event organised by a local youth group called Save the Beach Maldives. The debris collected from across the island included heavy concrete pieces left over from construction projects.
“We hope more people want to help places like this in the future because it’s not just a problem for Maldives here. It’s a problem for everyone around the world,” said Fathimath Thanzeela Naeem, the lead coordinator for the clean-up.
“We are all connected by the ocean so I’m sure that bigger countries like the US could make an impact as well.”
The Rodney M Davis departed today after concluding its four-day stopover.
Aside from the day out in Vilimalé, the sailors also participated in sporting activities with the MNDF Coast Guard, “building camaraderie and friendships with the local mariners.”
“I like being able to come overseas and help out other people and see how they live,” said Petty Officer Daniel Cornede.
“Especially when it comes to cleaning up the beach, because I come from Hawaii, and this is how I was raised to pick up trash off the beach.”