Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Colombia Bound

The Continuing Promise Project HOPE team is barely out of sight of Haiti, and we’re already gearing up for the next stage of action. We’re striving to, as team member Sandy said yesterday, “work out all the kinks,” so we can perform HOPE’s work with maximum speed and effectiveness.

After the evening muster, team member Dr. Manish Oza gathered the team around the conference table in the Flag Mess to discuss how we might learn from some of the inconveniences we experienced in Haiti.

The knowledge that we’ll be facing a different climate in Colombia spurred our decisions. Haiti’s northern peninsula is dry in comparison to much of the Caribbean. Seeing that summer is Colombia’s rainy season, we expect things to get a lot wetter.

Team member Dr. Michael Polifka, who has undertaken numerous medical missions in Latin America, advised that everyone buy a rain jacket at Guantanamo. He also cautioned that we should be prepared to deal with copious mud.

“The big problem might not be rain, but the stuff the rain makes,” he said.
We’ll also purchase water shoes, lest we have to wade ashore again. Far from being an issue of comfort, dry feet will become essential in Colombia’s jungle humidity in order to thwart trench foot and similar conditions.

The team also agreed that we should become more proactive in dealing with the military’s pre-set structure for the med sites. Manish suggested taking advantage of team members’ knowledge of specific medical topics to give more detailed education presentations.
“We could cover asthma, wound-dressings, any number of stuff...” Manish said.

Earlier today three of the team got the chance to view Haiti as never before. Dr. Melissa Moore, Matya Cooksey, and Susan Eilermann were selected to go along with a helicopter crew that was photographing certain sites for publicity purposes. They saw everything from country villages to a beachside resort complete with a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

One sight of the day made a particularly strong impression. Though many buildings in one rural settlement were primitive, it boasted one unexpected advancement in hygiene.
“I was super-impressed with these latrines up in the hills,” Matya said.

These latrines were solidly built and equipped with ventilation shafts, which help the waste break down faster. If toilets of this quality can be found in Haiti’s back country, it stands to sense that the country’s overall health can advance, even if only one town at a time.

Story and photos by HOPE volunteer and PAO, Eric Campbell

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