Thursday, July 29, 2010

Volunteers Begin Continuing Promise 2010

While Project HOPE volunteers in Indonesia continue their work aboard the USNS Mercy as part of the Pacific Partnership 2010, another set of HOPE volunteers are beginning a four-month mission of health care, education and humanitarian assistance on the other side of the world. Fourteen HOPE volunteers boarded the USS Iwo Jima in Miami, part of Continuing Promise 2010, and are heading to Haiti, the first leg of the eight county tour. As the ship is under sail, volunteers are busy learning Navy protocol, ship safety procedure, and what to expect when the ship drops anchor in Haiti. Eric Campbell, Project HOPE's volunteer Public Affairs Officer onboard offers this account:

Standing on the prow of the Iwo Jima in the open sea gives one the feeling of being a fly on the tip of a paper fan manipulated by an old lady in a sweltering Southern church. The flat deck of the ship moves up and down lazily with the trough and crest of each wave.

Below decks the effect is even more surreal, because of the fact that humans are used to perceiving movement visually. But now we have only our inner ears and the sense of fluctuating gravity to tell us of the ship’s progress through the waves.

A serene sunrise turned to drizzle, with a brief squall in the early afternoon. By the time the rain had cleared, we were well within sight of Cuba’s rugged coast.

All HOPE team members also had to complete helicopter safety training today. The principles are pretty simple: life vest, helmet, ear protection, and goggles on, secure anything in your pockets, sit down, strap in, and don’t do anything stupid. Watch your head on the way out of the aircraft.

After dinner we had a briefing on the states of the specific sites in which we’ll be giving aid. The two sites on the northern peninsula where we’ll be stationed were spared much of the earthquake damage, but were inundated by an unknown number of refugees fleeing the wreckage. Overcrowding and disease present major problems. Tomorrow we’ll have a large rehearsal-style airlift to prepare for the next day, which is when team members will finally go ashore in Saint Louis de Nord, Haiti.

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