Thursday, June 3, 2010

Volunteers Board USNS Mercy to Begin Work

June 1, 2010

We were eager to get off the land and onto the ship; but our embarkation was delayed because the Vietnamese government was still processing our paperwork. At midday, Commodore Freschetti came from the USNS Mercy to our beach-front hotel in Quy Bunh and said we would each have our individual coupons for passage within the hour. These acted as visas to enable us to get through the checkpoints at the pier and to load ourselves and our gear onto small boats (nicknamed Band-Aids) for their support role to our enormous esteemed hospital ship Mercy.

We motored out toward the imposing white shape til first its red cross and then its life boats came clearly into view. Next we pulled alongside the Mercy and found ourselves climbing at last up the ramp and into an opening in the side of the ship, hoisting our bags up, fire-bucket-brigade style.

On board we went through orientation and said goodbyes to Project HOPE’s Frederick Gerber and to Tony Burchard and his daughter Barbara Ann, who had toured the ship and gifted ribbons and headbands in the pediatric ward. In the evening we formally met with Faye Pyles, HOPE’s volunteer Chief Nursing Officer and Operations Officer, and Marshall Cusic, HOPE’s volunteer Medical Director, and were officially welcomed onboard ship by the Commodore. The welcome was in a mess hall briefing that included more than 900 other workers all focused on one mission: strengthening the health care of the Vietnamese people in sustainable ways.

Work begins tomorrow.

Thanks for reading - Mary Hamill

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