HMS Portland crew help African orphans

Sailors from the Plymouth-based Royal Navy warship HMS Portland have generously spent their patrol rest period ashore helping orphans.

The frigate’s crew volunteered for two days at the Heaven Home and Saint Georges Foundation orphanages in Sierra Leone to help make life a little better for the youngsters as the ship visited the capital Freetown on her nine-month deployment.

Engineers re-wired one of the orphanages, mended the main generator which was broken for a year and completed basic plumbing jobs and fixed showers. 

After also painting and gardening, some of the sailors joined the children in story-telling and colouring-in and football.

Our short stay in Freetown has been another successful visit. I know that volunteering at the orphanages is a memory that will stick with many of my ship’s company for the rest of their lives.

Captain Paul Stroude RN

Flight Commander Lieutenant Laura Cambrook, 30, in charge of the frigate’s Lynx helicopter, said: It’s been a really worthwhile couple of days. 

Despite having already been through so much in their short lives the children are full of joy and were so much fun to be around – I don’t think anyone escaped without having a cuddle and reading a story.

“It is easy to forget how lucky we are in the UK. These children have nothing, but they are just so happy.  Much of this happiness is because of the fantastic work of the staff at the orphanages, many of whom are volunteers.”

Volunteering at the homes was the highlight of the four-day visit to the Commonwealth country, which focused on forging ties with Sierra Leonians at every level.

Ambassadors and diplomats, led by the country’s Foreign Minister Samura Kamara, received a presentation on HMS Portland’s mission and the importance of maritime security operations off Africa, followed by a question and answer session with the frigate’s captain Captain Paul Stroude.

The ship’s seamanship experts shared boat-handling and navigational techniques with Sierra Leone’s police and the Maritime Wing of the Armed Forces.  Many of the African personnel had already been trained by the Royal Navy in the UK.

A village outside Freetown was the venue for a football match against the Sierra Leone military team. HMS Portland’s team coach was greeted by more than 50 children.

By kick-off a crowd of more than 200 gathered and despite taking an early lead, the ship suffered a heavy 8-2 defeat. Ship’s team captain and ship’s Leading Physical Instructor Seaman Fraser Bricknell, 26, said the match was the highlight of the deployment.

Fraser added: “The whole village, and our opposition, made us feel very welcome. Although not the conditions we are used to back home, and unfortunately ending in a heavy defeat, we’ll take away many happy memories and an experience we won’t forget.”

Captain Stroude said: “Our short stay in Freetown has been another successful visit.  I know that volunteering at the orphanages is a memory that will stick with many of my ship’s company for the rest of their lives.

“I was honoured to host so many distinguished diplomats aboard Portland; I hope that our experiences of delivering maritime security, and the challenges we highlighted, struck a chord with them.”

HMS Portland, last visited Sierra Leone in 2014 and is due back in Plymouth next month, after 37,000 miles sailing through the North and South Atlantic, Mediterranean Sea, Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean.