Thursday, July 1, 2010

NGOs Work Together to Provide Care

One of the official primary goals of Pacific Partnership 2010 is to carry out work that will strengthen “regional relationships with host and partner nations in Southeast Asia.” In practice this goal is addressed through an extraordinary web of relationships among the many individual organizations represented within this Pacific Fleet mission. Besides all the military services, the State Department, USAID, US Public Health Service, and Defense Logistics Agency, the Partnership includes seventeen separate Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), twelve of them onboard the USNS Mercy or the JDS Kunaski during the Cambodia portion. These are: East Meets West Foundation, Humanitarian Medical Assistance, International Relief Team (IRT), Latter-day Saint Charities (LDS), Operation Civic Force, Peace Winds America, Project HOPE, Operation Smile, and University of California at San Diego Pre-Dental Society (UCSD), UNIES, Vets Without Borders, and World Vets. Cooperation among the many groups is, of course, implied and it is also explicitly specified in a major mission task, namely to “Plan Humanitarian Civic Assistance activities to be mutually supporting across all lines of operation.”

On a day-to-day basis, the cooperation among people from the different NGO’s onboard is both formal and informal. On a typical day many volunteers are out in the field working side by side and have somewhat limited access to the central information on the ship. Many NGO’s find a need to assemble all the volunteers each evening for sharing information after a long hot day’s work.

A major way of formally strengthening communication is the meeting of NGO team leaders held each morning in the Officers’ Lounge. Pictured here from Friday’s meeting are: Irv Silverstein and Sammy Boho of UCSD; Dr. Marshall Cusic of Project HOPE; Charla Nielsen of LDS; Faye Pyles of Project HOPE; and Therese Rymer of IRT. The meeting ranged over topics such as the policy against fraternization and the feasibility of sharing among NGO’s the briefs which Faye Pyles writes about daily details for volunteers.

Each day’s NGO leader meeting follows upon the ship’s Medical Treatment Facility meeting, where one person represents the NGO group to learn of the critical issues of the day. The structure for including the NGO’s in this fashion emerged on this current mission in response to a felt need for cooperation as the number of NGO volunteers has grown (from 150 in 2008 to 580 in 2010). Instrumental in the structural development were both Captain Jeffrey W. Paulson, Medical Contingent Commander, and Project HOPE's Medical Director, Dr. Marshall Cusic, who says, “The challenge is the interagency interaction.” Meeting together is one step toward that goal, along with serving the host nation patients together.

The Cambodian mother shown here brought her son yesterday to the MedCAP (Medical Civil Action Project) at Sihanoukville Hospital, where the Officer in Charge was Albert Nielsen, leader of the LDS contingent of volunteers. Two HOPE volunteers, both a pediatrician and nursing student Patrick McNichols, saw the boy from the University of San Diego.

One moment of multifaceted cooperation is presented in the photograph of patients, health care providers, and translators in a MedCap clinic in a schoolroom in Quy Nohn, Vietnam.

Thanks for reading - Mary Hamill, Ph.D., Project HOPE PAO

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