By Lieutenant (Navy) Linda Coleman
As Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships Kingston and Summerside began preparations for their deployment to West Africa, word spread that the ships were offering to transport donations to African schools in need. Donations poured in from all over Halifax, including École Beaubassin, a local elementary school. One of the teachers was particularly passionate about donating because her husband is the Operations Officer in Summerside, Lieutenant (Navy) Guillaume Desjardins.
“When my wife Janie heard we were collecting donations for some French speaking African countries, she thought this would be a great opportunity to get her school involved, French school to French school,” said Lt(N) Desjardins.
The school found math, science and French books from its collection to donate. The school also used their Facebook page to reach out to their community as a donation drive, which proved to be a success. Parents and students added to the donation pile, with students even donating some of their favourite reading books. In the end, École Beaubassin ended up donating over 2,000 French books for Kingston and Summerside to transport to West Africa.
On February 22, 2018, the ships’ companies delivered the items, along with toys, blankets, toiletries, first aid supplies and clothes to Diaraf Falla Paye, a French school in Dakar, Senegal.
“We don’t often have this opportunity to give donations by hand and see the direct impact it has to those receiving it. This is great – you know exactly where your donations are going. It’s also great to make relationships and hopefully we’ll be back next year,” added Lt(N) Desjardins.
The crew members spent the whole day at the school, making repairs to desks, doors and plumbing, and removing large stones from the yard to make it a safer environment for the kids to play in. During the visit, the sailors also couldn’t help but take the time to interact with the curious children who enjoyed playing with the sailors.
“It made me feel special to see how the kids interact; it’s so different from home. It was nice to help them and feel like we’re making a difference,” said Leading Seaman Alexy Thibault, who played and sang with some young girls in the school yard.
Kingston and Summerside are currently deployed on Operation PROJECTION in West Africa, engaging with local communities and contributing to regional stability and security.