MAZATLAN, Mexico -- It's always good to lend a helping hand to those in need, especially less fortunate children living in a broken down orphanage in want of repair. Due to a lack of funding, there are not many options available for the orphans here in Mazatlan to improve their living environment.
However, fourteen Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and about 30 sailors from the amphibious assault ship USS Denver answered a call for help and provided humanitarian assistance to the "Orfanatorio de Mazatlan," or "Mazatlan Orphanage" here, Jan. 18.
The humanitarian project lasted about six hours and was coordinated by Navy Lt. M. Giralmo, chaplain, USS Denver. Marines from MEU Service Support Group 11 (MSSG-11) and sailors from the ship worked together to paint the orphanage's walls, fix electrical problems and clean up the building.
"I'm impressed with their work, their professionalism and their conduct," said Cristina Pena de Herrera, president of the Orfanatorio de Mazatlan. "Their discipline was very evident."
When the project was complete, the walls were painted with lighter colors, the lighting fixtures were fixed, the rooms were clean, and the staff and children were extremely happy.
"It feels great to help out those who are less fortunate than us and to see the smiles on the little children’s faces," said Sgt. Raymond B. Cotton, radio chief, communications detachment, MSSG-11, 11th MEU.
According to Cotton, it was sad to leave the children at the end of the day because of the bond they had made. Hopefully, every time the orphanage's staff and children enter one of the bright, freshly painted rooms, they'll think of the Marines and sailors, and smile.
In addition to their humanitarian project, Marines and sailors also had an opportunity to enjoy the liberty here, soaking up three days of sunny weather, ocean scenery and authentic Mexican food.
According to Cpl. A. Phillip Peacock, computer technician, MSSG-11, 11th MEU, this was the first visit to Mexico for many of the Marines and they were very impressed with the way the locals treated Americans.
"We were treated like royalty," he said. "The food and merchandise were extremely inexpensive and the cab drivers were very friendly. Anytime the Marines needed directions or information the locals were very eager to help."
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Chris L. Fields, embarkation and combat cargo officer for the USS Denver, said that these Marines were hand picked to go to Mazatlan because they were outstanding Marines.
"Most of these Marines have never been on ship before, so it was a good experience for them to get a taste of ship life before they deploy later this year (aboard USS Denver)," Fields said. "It’s also good for them to get used to working with sailors."
According to Peacock, all in all the Marines felt privileged to go to Mazatlan because for some, trips like this come around only once in a blue moon.
The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit is scheduled to leave on a regularly scheduled deployment to the U.S. Central and Pacific Commands early this summer aboard three amphibious assault ships, including the USS Denver.