HONG KONG -- The Hong Kong skyline loomed large on the waterfront. Skyscrapers towering above the reclaimed region stand as a testament to this small Asian countries excesses.
But in a small building in the Western District, few residents are able to afford even the basic necessities of life.
The St. Barnabas’ Society and Home houses many local homeless and transient. The Christian charity, staffed mainly by volunteers, struggles to ensure a decent quality of life for those who have encountered rough times.
Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) recently donated their liberty time in port to help at the shelter.
The small group helped remove furniture that had outlived its usefulness and clean up common rooms. The work was sorely needed, as Marines moved rotting furniture from the aging structure, and cleaned thick layers of dust and dirt throughout its rooms.
While some of the work could have been taken care of by the small staff, overall the project needed more people. The Marines provided the extra help for the large project that lay ahead of them.
They also provided a little extra muscle. The Marines were able to cart off large pieces of furniture before maneuvering it through a few blocks of Hong Kong traffic to a nearby refuse center.
The trip allowed the Marines to observe the unique urban landscape and provided some laughs.
“I risked my life through Hong Kong traffic,” joked Sgt. Dennis J. Wininger, imagery analyst, 13th MEU (SOC). “It’s the best way to get into the community.”
He said the project only lasted a couple hours in the morning, but was very rewarding.
Winninger added that this was his second time visiting Hong Kong, but he spent his first trip inside the “tourist spots.”
“Here you’re seeing downtown Hong Kong. You’re seeing the real world,” he said.
Major Brian N. Wolford, supply officer, 13th MEU (SOC), and senior Marine at the site, said the Marines’ performance even surprised the staff.
“We did more than they thought we could,” he said. “We actually ran out of stuff to do.”
The 13th MEU (SOC) undertook the St. Barnabas project in coordination with two other events.
A similar sized group of Marines and Sailors volunteered time painting at the Salvation Army and loading tsunami relief supplies for local Hong Kong charity organization Crossroads International.
The volunteer project is the last in a series of community relation events the 13th MEU (SOC) has undertaken since the beginning of their seven-month deployment. The Marines of the “Fighting 13th” have completed a project at every liberty port, including several while deployed to Iraq.
The 13th MEU (SOC) is scheduled to return to San Diego in February.