Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Celebration of Unity

Only one day remains of our visit here in Nicaragua. As I reflect back on the day of our arrival, 11 August, I can clearly envision the condition of the project sites as we toured them for the first time --- Puerto Cabezas Municipal Park had 4 or five tree stumps and a few benches to sit on; the Government Compound had only its two main buildings and an empty dirt lot where they envisioned small vocational classrooms would sit; Juan Comenius High School classrooms were without ceilings, torn fences, graffiti walls, and much needed tables and benches; at the Nancy Bach Hospital, there were poor drainage conditions, broken equipment and much needed medical supplies; in the remote town of Yulu the only drinking well was marginal in its utility and sanitation, and both Yulu and another remote town, Betania, were in much need of medical, dental, and veterinarian care.

Tomorrow is our final day of operations ashore and onboard the KEARSARGE. Beginning early tomorrow, we will conduct a series of pass and review ceremonies celebrating the collective achievement of the men and women embarked in support of this mission and the Nicaraguans who joined in to make it all happen.

No time to stop and smell the roses, as we continue to plow through the many medical and engineering needs that still exist. Tremendous strides are still being made at the Nancy Bach Hospital by the US Public Health Service. For the past three days, they have been providing training to the health care specialists and practitioners through workshops focusing on mid-wifery, social services, domestic violence, STD’s, basic life support, women’s heath, maternal wellness, waterborne diseases and dive training and safety. After a few days of our arrival, we discovered that many young men had suffered from dive related injuries. Although the hospital has a decompression chamber (Hyperbaric Chamber) to treat decompression injuries; we thought a little education and prevention would go a long way in providing a cure.

Over in the town of Yulu we are wrapping up the final medical, dental, veterinary and engineering projects. Yesterday, we screened or treated everyone that showed up. And like the town of Tuapi, we hope to have screened or treated the entire Yulu township of 800 before the mission is over.

Back in the town of Puerto Cabezas at Juan Cormenius High School, our make shift temporary medical facility, the lines are getting shorter by the day as we whittle down to a hand full of patients that may not get seen or treated before we leave. We would like to treat them all, but there just isn’t enough time. Our engineers and ship volunteers are also putting on the final touches of painting and cleaning so that tomorrow we can turn the facility back over to administrators with new roofs, new furniture, fresh paint and cleaned grounds for the new school year.

Also, our engineers squeezed in the time and found enough material to build two shelters and repair a swing set at the Centro Escolar School in Puerto Cabezas. A very small school, they conduct half day classes in order to serve over 600 students. The school is also adult education center on the weekends.

In response to a short notice request to join them in worship, I, along with members of the KEARSARGE church choir, Chaplain O’Bannon, ship’s chaplain, the Commanding Officer and other members of my staff and team attended church services [Thanksgiving Service] at La Iglesia del Barrio El Muelle (Moravian Church) in Puerto Cabezas. A largely mosquito congregation, we crammed into this modest church for almost two hours of fellowship, praying and singing together, we concluded with the entire church praying over the mission and the safety of the team. It was a very moving 2 hours, and one not much different from what we are mostly accustomed; given reverence to the Almighty and thanks for His many blessings.

Before heading back to the ship, we stopped off to open and dedicate two small buildings that were built to be vocational and training centers. Complete with electricity outlets and installed ceiling fans, the buildings will provide training to the many adults plagued by the high unemployment rate.

Tomorrow will bring mixed emotions for everyone. Within such a short amount of time so much has been accomplished but yet so much left undone. We are all recipients in this neighborly exchange…they the beneficiaries of our medical, dental, and engineering expertise along with donated food, supplies and equipment; and we the recipients of their many smiles and gestures of gratitude and thanks. It has been a “win-win” for all.

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