Fourteen sailors from HMAS Toowoomba visited the Victoria Memorial School for the Blind during a recent port visit to Mumbai, India.
Partially funded by the Australian Consulate in Mumbai, the school provides free education and boarding to 300 visually impaired students, aged six to 18, mostly from low-income families.
After a quick tour of the grounds, the Toowoomba sailors were invited to play blind cricket.
The school team, which the sailors later learned was the under-18 Indian Blind Cricket Team, proved to be a formidable opponent, out-playing the able-sighted Aussies.
Able Seaman Communication Information Systems Brittany Ely said the match was a rewarding part of what she expected would be a tough deployment ahead.
“I was really impressed by the ability of the local side to overcome their impairment and become highly proficient cricket players,” she said.
Toowoomba left Australia on 13 January for a six-month deployment on Operation MANITOU, the Australian Defence Force’s contribution to support international efforts to promote maritime security in the Middle East region.
The warship conducted a brief port visit in Mumbai while on her way to the region and before commencing patrols on MANITOU.
The port visit enhanced Australian-Indian relations and exposed the Toowoomba crew to a part of society rarely seen in Australia.
Sub-Lieutenant Nicholas Irwin said the crew finished the day with a new-found appreciation for those living with visual impairments.
“It was a good opportunity to represent my ship and the Royal Australian Navy, engaging with the local community; if only I had trained a little more beforehand,” the Maritime Warfare Officer said.
Toowoomba and her ship’s company of around 190 personnel arrived in Bahrain and commenced operations in the Middle East under Operation MANITOU on 31 January.
The Anzac Class Frigate will also support the International Maritime Security Construct in its mission to ensure freedom of navigation through the Strait of Hormuz and continue Australia’s longstanding effort with the Combined Maritime Forces.