Recently, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Ottawa had the opportunity to help a good cause while deployed. After the conclusion of RIMPAC, an international exercise that involves ships, aircraft, submarines, and land support units from all around the world, plus the crew helped out at a hospice in Maui, where the ship had co-ordinated a stop.
When Padre Andrew Klinger, the chaplain serving on the ship, found out about the stop, he immediately started looking for good outreach opportunities.
Padre Klinger says that the job of the Chaplain is to “minister to our own, facilitate the worship of others, and care for all. Onboard ship, that mandate gives me the freedom to enter into each of the spaces with intent to know the people, their families, and provide meaningful support to them in the high and low points in their lives.”
Operational tempo had been high for the deployment, making this the first opportunity for the ship had for outreach. Once he knew the ship was stopping, Klinger started searching for a good community relations opportunity for the crew.
They ended up deciding to help out a local hospice. Padre Klinger is very familiar with the role a hospice can play in the lives of families, especially after he and his wife lost their own son.
“As a person who has been greatly blessed by the work and function of a hospice through the care of my wife and I during the loss of our son, it seemed like a natural fit,” said Klinger.
HMCS Ottawa Operations Officer Chief Sue Frisby, who has served aboard the ship before, currently works with the Operations team. Her job is to ensure that the crew is capable of fighting and that the ship is combat ready.
She explains that, while it depends on the operation, if the crew is able to do any outreach, crew-members will often help out any way they can.
“The crew on Ottawa are a very generous bunch of people, we raise funds annually for The Perley and Rideau Veteran’s Health Centre in Ottawa, and a few members of the crew had the pleasure of travelling to Ottawa in the fall to donate in excess of $15,000 to them. Time and hard work are easy things for us to offer up to those in need when we are away from our homes, it helps give more meaning to the reasons we are away,” said Chief Frisby.
Hospice Maui was happy to have the help. They recently had donated to them a plot of land, which they intend to use for a new meditative garden for patients and their families to enjoy.
However, the land was covered with dense brush, brambles, and trees.
The crew from the HMCS Ottawa helped both for the short term, by clearing the brush and brambles allowing for safer transit from the hospice to staff and family vehicles, and for the long term with the garden.
“It felt fantastic to help out the Hospice. The people there (both clients and workers) needed the help, and we were all fit, able bodies who volunteered to do pretty much anything they needed that day, we cleaned away bushes (squashed a few very ugly random critters), used power tools, painted, made a walkway to a lookout for the clients and family to use for reflection and so much more. It was the first time many of us had the opportunity to visit Maui and to know that we left such a meaningful impact on the people who work at or have need of the hospice, felt amazing,” said Chief Frisby.
While there, the hospice’s outreach worker talked with crew members about the work hospices do for both patients and their families, giving crew members a perspective on how deeply a hospice can impact the lives of families.
“What came as a shock to some of our sailors and cemented the importance of such a facility, was two of the residents passed away during our time there. Our work there was a much needed silver lining to what was a very hard day for the families and staff in the facility, and we were blessed to provide that for them,” said Padre Klinger.
Though a difficult topic, it is an important one to discuss, especially considering a large part of the crew has been fortunate enough not to lose someone they love.
“Through that conversation, our sailors were able to hear and understand on their own terms, rather than being met with the uncomfortable, abrupt reality of learning what a facility like this is during the already difficult loss of a loved one. Equipped now with that knowledge, when such a sad event occurs, the crew will already have a framework to palliative care set in their minds,” said Padre Klinger.
When the hard work was done, Padre Klinger asked if there was anything else with which they could help.
“The hospice said that an adequate lighting solution would help the safety of the workers and the families of the hospice transit to their vehicles, but also help situate the meditation garden’s design in the long run,” said Padre Klinger. However, the cost of the lighting solution, around $10,000, was more than the ship could raise. So they reached out to Boomer’s Legacy.
“Working with Boomer’s was wonderful. They caught the dream we had for the space we cleared out, saw the need for the hospice as an appropriate avenue to aid in our efforts, and provided the whole amount requested. To see the look on the faces of the hospice workers when we did the work and then pulled out the giant cheque for the full lighting solution was a memory that still brings tears to my eyes today. What a blessing it was to work with Boomer’s and the hospice on such a worthy cause,” said Padre Klinger.
When asked if they had anything else they would like to add, Padre Klinger said, “On behalf of the crew onboard HMCS Ottawa, I would like to thank Boomer’s Legacy for the funds to help make this community relation work a huge success. Thanks also to Hospice Maui for the opportunity to come to you and make such a life-giving joint effort possible for all involved. Thanks finally to all the families and friends who care and support our crew as we serve Canada in the Royal Canadian Navy.”