Saturday, August 16, 2008

What A Day

While in Nicaragua we are scheduled to work at four locations, Puerto Cabezas, Tuapi, Yulu, and Betania, Peruto Cabezas having the most project sites. Yesterday, 8/16/08, marked the final day of our mission in Tuapi. We took the opportunity to take a look around and see how each site was progressing and what I saw was nothing short of amazing.We began with a stop at the Government Compound where a group of our Navy and Air Force Civil Engineers are building two small office like buildings directly behind the main building compound. As we asked questions about its progress, and if they were pleased with the construction efforts so far; we learned that the small buildings would be used as trade school training classrooms. For example, the first building will be utilized for local women to receive seamstress training. Essentially each building will be used as a classroom to further educate the people of Puerto Cabezas and surrounding areas on a particular specialty or type of work. Initially, training will focus on the seamstress profession but in the near future they are looking to expand the curriculum and offer a computer class and other vocational skill training. It appears to be a universal axiom that the way to resolving poverty is first and foremost through education. While this is still a developing idea in the area, it is definitely a step in the right direction, and we are glad to be able to help them in their journey.Following our site-visit , we made stops by the Nancy Bach Hospital, the Municipal park and finally to Juan Comenius High School where long lines of Nicaraguans continue to gather for medical and dental care. Each morning, we review the numbers of patients seen and treated at each medical location and while it is unsettling to see so many people, especially the elderly and small children, needing medical and dental care, it is very rewarding that we are able and here to assist the Nicaraguan community in their needs. I also noted that the engineering project had taken off with tremendous success. Although the school is alternating as a temporary dental and medical treatment facility during our visit, it is actually a permanent school for hundreds of Nicaraguan children. Our engineers have taken on the daunting task of restoring, repairing and replacing deteriorating ceilings, walls, fences and electrical wiring. We will complete the engineering project with Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Troops volunteering to conduct community relations projects to paint and touch-up the building, courtyard and class rooms.
After having MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) with the site team, we were headed out to our next site when I noticed a young man in an Air Force uniform getting into a taxi. Initially, I was concerned and then I realized that one of our own, Air Force Engineers, Airman First Class Mendoza, who had been part of the team repairing and reconstructing classrooms at the high school was from Nicaragua and that this was a reunion between him and his Nicaraguan family members. I stepped out of the car and met with his parents. During the discussion, I was almost overwhelmed by the pride in his mother’s eyes as I complimented her on her son’s tremendous commitment, dedication and contribution, and service to his country. It was clear that this meeting was more than a meeting but a cheerful reunion, and I was glad to have happened upon it.
After a very sincere hug, I presented Mendoza’s mother with a CPR-8 command coin and extended an invitation for them to visit the ship, anchored 6 miles off shore. Guess what, this morning as I was heading back to the ship from another site visit. There they were. When they arrived to the ship, they were met by the Commanding Officer, Capt Walter Towns, who gave the mother a ball cap and a tour of the ship. What a day, what a day…this is the kind of stuff that I live for.