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Jarrett Crew Members Act as Ambassadors in El Salvador

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050916-18
Release Date: 9/16/2005 2:06:00 PM

By Lt. Kathleen Hosie, USS Jarrett Public Affairs

EL SALVADOR (NNS) -- Crew members from USS Jarrett (FFG 33) participated in a community relations project at a rural elementary school, Valle Nuevo, here Sept. 5.

The project involved constructing a fifth classroom adjacent to the school that educates 100 children from neighboring farms.

Working alongside several local engineers, crew members grabbed shovels and began to level the ground, then they mixed sand, granite, concrete powder and water to make a concrete deck. The effort involved all hands working under a blazing hot sun and blue sky until the afternoon, when heavy, dark thundering clouds rolled in overhead.

Lt. j.g. Alex Buell routinely volunteers in San Diego and Mexico for Habitat for Humanity projects. This project, however, involved more ground-up work.

“The work was very tough and involved a lot of digging, moving dirt, and sweat,” he said. “We mixed the concrete by hand and used water in jugs brought from a well to moisten the mix.” Asked if the effort was worth the sweat, Buell said, “Of course, the work was definitely worth it. We could tell that the kids could really use another classroom.”

The principal and his staff of four teachers were very grateful for the construction materials and workforce. With the additional classroom, he plans to expand the school and add a grade.

Crew members also distributed Project Handclasp materials to the school children and school officials. The elementary school students each received “friendship bags” consisting of school supplies and hygienic items, each hand-packed and donated by charities in the U.S., while the principal received numerous text books.

Electronics Technician 2nd Class Gilberto Ortizmanzano has special ties to the project. Ortizmanzano left his homeland of El Salvador in 1986 during a period of civil war.

“I still feel that I am a part of these people,” he said. Ortizmanzano attained his U.S. citizenship in 1997. “I want to help them in their struggle to make themselves better.”

Engineman 3rd Class Alan Rodriguez volunteered because he wanted to give something to the local community. “I wanted the children to have a classroom so that they can learn,” he said.

Like Ortizmanzano, Rodriguez became a U.S. citizen after moving from Mexico and joining the Navy. His Spanish-speaking skills were instrumental in the coordination of work with the El Salvadoran engineers.

Fire Controlman 2nd Class Joseph Silveira said he wanted to be “an ambassador of goodwill from the United States to those who may base their entire opinion of our country based on their one and only meeting with a United States citizen.”

Along with the other Jarrett crew members, he wanted to leave a lasting positive impression. Jarrett’s visit to El Salvador marks only the second time in ten years the U.S. Navy has visited the country.

“I would encourage other crew members to volunteer for community relations projects,” urged Silveira, “because it would increase the amount of public contact with people who would have otherwise never known the inherent goodwill of the average American citizen.”

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