Republic of Korea
(Jan. 13, 2011) - On Jan. 13, 20 Sailors assigned to USS Bunker Hill along with 11 Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) Sailors volunteered their time at the Pusan Social Welfare Foundation HEE-RAK-WON. HEE-RAK-WON is an orphanage that houses and cares for approximately 70 children ranging in age from 7 to 20 years-old and has been in operation for 35 years. It is currently under the leadership of Mrs. Park Hyo Il, the superintendent and daughter of the original founder.
Both Bunker Hill and ROKN Sailors were greeted with smiles and hugs by the children who later conducted three outstanding musical and cultural performances. Following the performances, the volunteers interacted with the children, playing basketball, soccer and football. Ensign Robert Knapp was one Bunker Hill sailor who volunteered his time. “Getting out on the field and participating in sports makes you realize that these kids are not different at all from when I was young – I know that the time we spent with them truly made an impact on both sailors and children alike,” said Knapp.
Volunteers handed out ship’s patches to the children and Master Chief Petty Officer Everett Mays, Bunker Hill’s command master chief, presented Bunker Hill coins to the two youngest children at the orphanage. Before leaving the orphanage, the visiting sailors were invited to gather as the children at HEE-RAK-WON played handmade drums and other instruments as a final farewell.
Ensign Anthony Eccleston was among the sailors interacting with the children. “The community relations project in Korea was a great experience and the children certainly enjoyed our being there,” said Eccleston. “The most impressive part was the musical talent each possessed at such a young age.”
Bunker Hill sailors of all ranks volunteered to take part in this visit and filled the availability in a matter of minutes. Sailors continue to devote the little available time in port afforded them in a manner that furthers the team and community spirit developed while onboard. This rewarding experience spent at HEE-RAK-WON was not only beneficial to the orphanage through interaction with the children, but also allowed for interaction and further positive relations with our ROKN allies. Bunker Hill is anxious for the next visit in a foreign port and the opportunity to spend it helping the community that welcomes its sailors.