HMCS Regina: lending a hand in the Philippines

Crowsnest - Spring 2014 / April 24, 2014

By Lieutenant (Navy) Mark Fifield

The helping hands of Canadian sailors reach far beyond operations at sea and into the hearts of those they meet ashore.

The busy seaport of Manila was HMCS Regina’s third port of call during her Operation Artemis deployment. In between some well-deserved rest and relaxation, a number of Regina’s sailors participated in community outreach activities designed to improve the lives of some of the city’s poorest citizens.

Manila is the capital city of the Philippines and is one of the most densely populated cities in the world – approximately 16.3 million people inhabit an area of only 38.55 square kilometers. Although there has been significant improvement in the overall quality of life of its citizens over the past few decades, extreme poverty can still be seen throughout the city, especially in the city’s slums and shantytowns like Helping Land.

Helping Land is located on the outskirts of Manila and is home to hundreds of people who survive and earn a living by recycling and repurposing garbage from the city’s landfills. During the port visit, Regina’s sailors accompanied the wife of the Canadian ambassador and Project Pearl outreach workers during a guided tour of Helping Land, and visited local children at the community school.

Following the tour, the children were bused to Regina where they toured the ship and were provided with a hot meal in the crew café. Afterwards, they were brought to a local museum before returning home at the end of the day.

“It was obvious from all their smiling faces that they had a wonderful experience and if the kids had half as much fun as we did, then the day was a huge success,” said Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Janet Graham-Smith, HMCS Regina’s coxswain. “This day would not have happened without the outstanding efforts of the ship’s company, who put their hearts and souls into this initiative.”

The ship’s charitable outreach activities didn’t end there as Regina’s padre, Captain Moley Mangana, spearheaded an effort to encourage the entire ship’s company to donate their unspent Philippine pesos to charity at the end of the port visit. The turnout was much greater than expected as 9,100 pesos, worth approximately $202 US, were generously donated to this worthy cause. Most of the money was distributed directly to homeless persons such as street children and their families, and over 3,000 pesos were donated to a local medical centre which provides street people with medical assistance and flu shots.

“I would like to express my sincere thanks to the ship’s company for their generosity as we made the lives of these poor people a little bit better even just for a day or two,” said Capt Mangana. “They will always remember for the rest of their lives the day that the Canadian sailors showed up unexpectedly to extend a helping hand.”