Members of HMCS St. John’s volunteer at a Romanian charity

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Article / February 16, 2017

By: Lt(N) Emily Anglin, HMCS St. John’s Unit Public Affairs Representative

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) St. John’s had a unique opportunity to make a difference for a group of disadvantaged youth while alongside in Constanta, Romania, during its Operation REASSURANCE deployment.

On February 5, 2017, Kevin Hamilton, the Canadian Ambassador to Romania, invited 21 women from HMCS St. John’s, three women from their forward logistics support team, and four Romanian officers to Cernavoda, Romania, to volunteer for the Nightingales Children’s Project. Founded and led by two British expatriates and their Romanian spouses, the project focuses on preventing human trafficking. It aims to keep young women and men from being trafficked into the sex trade by offering them education and meaningful employment.

Upon arrival, the ambassador and volunteers were greeted by the program founder, David Savage, manager Ben Wells, and a group of curious, but largely shy children. Their demeanor changed when the ambassador invited the soldiers, sailors and airwomen of St. John’s to hand out donated toques to each of the children, who then happily posed for photos (and took many selfies).

“When interacting with the girls I could sense a level of hardship in their lives, but also determination, strength, and hope,” said Able Seaman Roxanne Hovan, a reserve boatswain sailing on HMCS St. John’s.

Once the formalities were over, the volunteers buckled down to work: half went to paint the walls of a building, while the others learned about candle making. The candles serve a dual purpose for the girls at Nightingales: they spend their free time in a positive, creative way, and they are able to make money by selling their work.

Sergeant Jeanine Fraser, Senior Meteorological Technician onboard HMCS St. John’s, was especially moved by the experience. “So often you hear stories of what it is like for women in other countries, that they do not have the same opportunities as Canadian women,” she said. “To see this first hand makes it all so real. This program seems remarkable, and gives me hope that these bright young ladies have a brighter future ahead of them now.”

When the groups were called together to prepare for departure, the volunteers reluctantly left their activities, wishing they could stay and do more. The formerly shy girls hugged their favourite sailors goodbye, asking them to visit the next time the ship is in Romania.

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