Smiles and laughter were uniform of the day when personnel from Australian ships visited children’s homes in Vishakhapatnam, India, during a port visit this month.

The visits were among the community engagements ADF members are participating in as part of Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2022.

Music, art and memories

At Ken Foundation Society Boys’ Home, excited children welcomed the uniformed members with signs and cheers, and the Australian Army Band played while children and Defence volunteers enjoyed an energetic game of musical chairs.

Army Private Blake Hancock, a cargo specialist working in HMAS Adelaide, put his artistic talents to use, painting Sydney’s skyline on one wall of the home for children whose parents are unable to care for them.

“I just wanted to bring some happiness to the kids and I think art is one of the best ways to do that,” Private Hancock said.

“Some members painted Uluru but I drew the Sydney skyline because it’s the ship’s home port.

“None of the kids are going to remember my hometown of Barnawartha in Victoria but they can recognise Sydney.”

Physical Training Instructor Petty Officer Tamara Prins, from HMAS Anzac, jumped at the opportunity to visit the boys’ home, particularly because she has two young boys of her own.

“It felt really important for me to come here, spend some time with the kids and create memories for all of us,” Petty Officer Prins said.

The home’s founder, Santosh Pulletykurty, said the 45 children rescued off the streets and from working in factories would not soon forget the Australians’ visit.

“The games, the Army Band, everything gives them a ‘new life’ kind of feel. A person in uniform is something very inspiring to the children,” Mr Pulletykurty said.

Royal Australian Navy Sailors and Australian Army Soilders paint a classroom alongside personnel from Campus Challenge.

Sport, food and connection

Excited children also welcomed ADF members at Campus Challenge in Visakhapatnam.

Leading Seaman Breanna Jacobs-Rochford, from Adelaide, said the children were welcoming from the first moment.

“Even when playing volleyball, the children showed us how much they appreciated our time,” Leading Seaman Jacobs-Rochford said.

While some of the Australians played volleyball, cricket and badminton with the children, others planted trees around the campus and painted a classroom.

The campus also prepared tea and lunch with home-grown fruits and vegetables from the garden at the site, a home for differently abled children.

Royal Australian Navy Chaplain Andrew Thorburn said community engagement activities helped members to reconnect with the reason they serve.

“Our members are service-oriented people. Activities like this help to reinforce the difference their service makes to real people,” Chaplain Thorburn said.