RCN visits Liberia to promote peace, security and women’s empowerment

Master Seaman Allichia Gordon paints at the Rebecca J. Wilson Elementary School.

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By Lieutenant (Navy) Linda Coleman

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships Kingston and Summerside arrived in Monrovia, Liberia as part of Operation PROJECTION West Africa on February 28, 2018. The ships were alongside for two days to engage with the local community in concert with the Canadian Embassy to Liberia, including Ambassador Julie Shouldice, who attended each event with the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN).

The port visit kicked off by hosting the Reading Liberia Girls Program, a program partnered with CODE Canada, an organization that aims to promote global literacy. The girls were provided with a tour of the ships, the opportunity to interact with RCN members, and the chance to see first-hand the different roles and opportunities for women.

Lieutenant-Commander Emily Lambert, Commanding Officer of HMCS Summerside, led the discussion with the girls program. “We have females in all different positions in the RCN, so it’s a great example for you to take away and say you know what, if we can do it, so can each and every one of you.”

“So is anyone here interested in doing a non-traditional job?” asked LCdr Lambert. The girls enthusiastically spoke up and said “president,” “pilot” and “doctor,” leaving LCdr Lambert and other members of the RCN impressed and excited for all the girls.

Following further interaction with members of the ship’s company, LCdr Lambert concluded by telling the group to “always believe in yourself, no matter what you want in life. Anything is possible, as long as you put your head and mind into what you need to do.”

Following the discussion, Ambassador Julie Shouldice and LCdr Matt Woodburn, Commanding Officer of HMCS Kingston and Task Force Commander, visited retired Major-General Daniel Dee Ziankahn Jr., the Minister of Defence for the new Liberian government. The visit offered the opportunity to strengthen relations between Canada and Liberia, and to discuss regional maritime security.

“Many of the West African partner nations are keen and seeking opportunities to work with the RCN, and the Liberian Minister of Defence echoed this sentiment during the meeting,” said LCdr Woodburn. “We look forward to working with the Liberian Navy and other regional maritime partners during OBANGAME EXPRESS 2018, a U.S. Naval Forces Africa-led engagement, aimed at improving maritime peace and security through fostering regional cooperation and procedures.”

On March 1, the ships’ companies traveled to Rebecca J. Wilson Elementary School to conduct repairs, plumbing and painting, and to donate items including backpacks, school supplies, shoes, blankets, toys and desks. The sailors also took a break once in a while to read stories to the kids.

Master Seaman Allichia Gordon, a cook onboard HMCS Summerside, volunteered her time to paint at the school during the port visit. “Today made me feel really good. When you look at the structure of this place and what they have, they have very little. But they take a lot of pride in what they do have, and so it made me want to do a really good job and make sure that the effort we’re putting in here, we’re leaving them with a good feeling. I’m really happy about what we did here today,” she said.

Monrovia, Liberia was the RCN’s third port visit during Op PROJECTION West Africa, a strategic engagement with regional nations to support capacity building, foster relationships with partner navies and participate in OBANGAME EXPRESS 2018.

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