Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hasta Luego, Tumaco

Today is our final day in Tumaco, Colombia. Any moment, the Comfort will pull up anchor and depart for for our next location, bringing an amazing chapter of Continuing Promise 2009 to a close. A motto on the mission is that it’s not about the numbers but about the individuals we’re helping. And that’s true. It is individual patients who have defined the experiences of all aboard, who have stamped our memories with their smiles, their warmth, and their gratitude.

I’ve had the honor to write about some of those patients, like Johnny, the 7-year-old arthritic boy whose life was changed by the gift of a wheelchair. But there are many others. The fact is that it would be impossible to record every individual who has touched a HOPE volunteer. What’s important is that those connections exist regardless of whether they’re written about, and the goodwill they represent—both between people and between nations—will live on.

So it’s not about the numbers. But the numbers do tell a story of their own, and that story is inspiring as well: over 11,000 patients treated; over 50,000 healthcare encounters provided; and over 247 surgeries performed. These record numbers tell the story of men and women who are working ever harder and ever smarter to deliver the best possible care to the most possible people. They tell the story of a dream team of dedicated HOPE volunteers, NGO partners, and military counterparts who get up before dawn every day to begin treating people in need. They tell the story of success.

Over the past three days many HOPE volunteers have had to bid Continuing Promise farewell as they returned home. But it was a great consolation to them, and to all of us who remain aboard, to know that their extraordinary efforts over the past four (and in some cases, six or 10) weeks helped write the wonderful story of Continuing Promise 2009.


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