USS Makin Island Sailors, Marines Volunteer at Malaysian Children's Home 
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Alan J. Gragg, USS Makin Island Public Affairs 
KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia - Sailors and Marines deployed aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) volunteered their time with children at the Bukit Harapan Therapeutic Community children's home in Kota Kinabalu, May 19.

A group of Makin Island Sailors, along with Marines assigned to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), interacted with children in the home and cleaned out a drainage trench on the property.

"The kids are always very excited to have the U.S. Navy come here," said Audra Keyworth, the Bukit Harapan administrator. "We were also happy to host the U.S. Marine Corps too."

"Even though there is a language barrier, the kids always enjoy themselves when [U.S. military members] visit, and the yard work is a big help too," she added.

After briefly greeting the children, half of the volunteers split away from the group to take on the task of removing mud out of a drainage trench.

For one of the trench workers, Operations Specialist 3rd Class Byron Reynolds, the event was his first community service project overseas. He said he didn't know what to expect, but was told to wear his Navy Working Uniform because he might get a little dirty.

"It was a laborious time, but it was well worth it," said Reynolds, whose lower body was covered in mud after the project was completed. "If I have a chance to do another event like this, I will.

"I will definitely remember this day for all the hard work we did, but I don't mind putting in the effort because it feels great to help people, and it feels even better to help kids who are less fortunate than us," added Reynolds.

Bukit Harapan provides medical care, education opportunities and a caring home for handicapped and orphaned children, as well as abused single women.

While the trench work was going on outside, the other half of the group was inside the home playing games with the children.

"First we played 'Duck, Duck, Goose,' then I colored with them, and took pictures with them," said Fire Controlman 3rd Class Thao Miller. "I had a really good time, and I will definitely try to do something like this again, especially if it involves kids."

To conclude the day, representatives from Makin Island's First Class Petty Officer's Association presented a $500 donation to Bukit Harapan.

This is the first time Makin Island has visited Malaysia. The ship and its crew, along with the embarked 11th MEU, departed San Diego Nov. 14, 2011, on deployment.

Makin Island is the first U.S. Navy ship to deploy using a hybrid-electric propulsion system. By using this unique propulsion system, the Navy expects over the course of the ship's lifecycle, to see fuel savings of more than $250 million, proving the Navy's commitment to energy awareness and conservation.

This initiative is one of many throughout the Navy and Marine Corps that will enable the Department of the Navy to achieve the Secretary of the Navy's energy goals to improve our energy security and efficiency afloat and ashore, increase our energy independence and help lead the nation toward a clean energy economy.

Makin Island is the flagship of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group that is currently deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

The 7th Fleet area of operations 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.
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