Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Volunteers Begin Work in Colombia

On Sunday, Continuing Promise 2009 opened the doors of a clinic in Tumaco, Colombia, and a parade of distinguished guests visited the site to mark the occasion, including Tumaco’s mayor, the governor of Colombia’s NariƱo state (where Tumaco is located), U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William Brownfield, and Colombian rock-star Juanes. It was impossible for them not to be impressed by what they saw.

Personnel from all four branches of the military, two government agencies, and three NGOs toiling away in equatorial heat. An entire school campus—more than a dozen buildings—transformed overnight into a medical super-site offering care in more than a dozen different medical specialties. And most importantly, over a thousand patients—some of whom had come from hours away, and some of whom had been sick or injured for months or even years—receiving care from world-class providers.

Among those providers were more than a dozen Project HOPE volunteers triaging patients, performing surgical screenings, managing patient flow, and providing primary care. Project HOPE’s nurse educators, whose training program hadn’t yet begun, used their skills to teach waiting patients important health skills, such as infant CPR and basic hygiene.

While working in the optometry center, returning HOPE volunteer Barbara Perdikakis showed what a difference dedication and know-how can make. She noticed that one of the patients there for eye-care was missing his right leg and was getting around with the help of a giant stick. Through a translator, Barbara asked the man whether he’d like to get fitted for crutches. He enthusiastically said yes. So after ensuring that his eyes had been taken care of, Barbara arranged for the man to see the Navy’s physical therapist, who did the man one better, giving him a brand-new wheelchair that had been donated by the Wheelchair Foundation. If Barbara had any doubts that her patient was ecstatic, the high-five he gave her on the way out put them to rest.


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