Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Volunteer Mission to Latin America Gets Underway!

Monday, April 6, 2009...

We are underway! The Comfort left Miami this morning at 0730-ish with a complement of 20 "Hopies" and more than 900 others -- military personnel from all branches of the service; volunteers from U.S. non-government organizations (NGOs); and, medical professionals from 14 countries. We are a diverse group! As I walk around the decks -- getting lost and getting exercise -- there is a feeling of instant camaraderie.

All 20 of us made it on board yesterday with all our luggage. I don't know if that's a first, but it's a good sign! Our Fearless Leader, Project HOPE's Dave Eddy, assured us yesterday was the easiest logistical day of the mission. After the training sessions today, I have a little bit of an idea of what he means. We'll be at sea until Wednesday evening, getting more training and getting organized. And getting plenty of exercise going back and forth on the decks and up and down the ladder wells (stairways).

For the trivia buffs, here are some fast facts:

* The Comfort is 894 feet long -- almost 3 football fields -- 168 feet wide and 10 stories tall
* Her engines have 24,500 horsepower and she can do 17.5 knots
* She displaces almost 70,000 tons and carries 35,000 tons of ballast
* She can desalinate 100,000 gallons of sea water per day
* She has 12 full operating rooms

Here a couple that amaze me:

* On her last mission two years ago, the Comfort delivered 150 pallets of medicine and other donated products. This time, she's carrying 900 pallets. There is plenty of room for more next time!
* The health care professionals will treat between 80,000 and 100,000 people in less than 4 months in 7 countries.

What I'm hearing over and over is that the mission is not about numbers. It's about the one-on-one contact we will have with the people who come for treatment and education. Captain Ware put it well when he quoted Maya Angelou -- they will remember how you make them feel.

Well, we are all excited and honored to be part of this mission.

Onward ho!
Thanks for reading - Tom

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