Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Final Lap...

Blog update; two weeks removed from the sandy beaches of Curacao, we arrived in Trinidad and Tobago on 25 October and departed on 7 November. Our brief stop in Curacao was a welcome break and provided the “team” some well deserved rest and relaxation. It was a great opportunity to walk the beaches, sample the cuisine and shop for family and friends. Everyone really enjoyed themselves and after a few days of rest there was a curious sense around the ship that they were ready, no, more than ready to return to the mission at hand...helping others. It is amazing what a life changing experience this has been for many, if not all of us. Helping others to have access to the basics of health care, education, and quality working conditions really opens your eyes to what is truly important in life. As such, we are blessed and should be grateful of the liberties and freedoms that democracy affords us in our great nation. There is a price for freedom and there are consequences for not paying that price...we should all chose to pay that price...the risks and consequences of not are too dire.

So now here we are off the coast of Guyana after operating in Trinidad and Tobago (TTO). While in TTO, we were welcomed by the government and people of Trinidad...Trinis as they like to be called. It appeared a country with great aspirations for its future. A beautiful country, everywhere we went, we were greeted by smiles and embraced for our presence and our purpose.
Our mission in TTO was comprised of three major engineering projects, and two full time medical projects at local clinic in Couva and hospital in Arima. The three engineering projects were located at 1) Cyril Ross Nursery for children with HIV/AIDS, 2) All-For-One Child Development Center, and 3) the St Judes School for Girls.
• At the Cyril Ross Nursery, we met with four students from U.S. colleges
who were in TTO on foreign exchange tours. They were very upbeat and considered their experience to be invaluable...I tend to agree that those sorts of experiences and exposures can provide vital insight to our younger generation on the tremendous impact they can have through volunteer work. The children at the clinic were very up beat and full of energy as our team worked frantically landscaping the grounds, installing drainage systems, repairing fences; and repairing and installing new playground sets - all rewarding work. It was good to be able to do some good; especially there.
• Over at the All-In-One Clinic, we were met by Mr Jordan. He is the
school's creator, and he is the school's life source. The walls of the rooms, although dimly lit, were splashed with articles as far back as the late 70's highlighting how this young entertainer used his personal and meager earnings and savings to startup this Center. It is a Center dedicated to the community; dedicated to the youth in the community who might not otherwise have the opportunity to get the "LIFE SKILLS” to make it in the world. He is passionate about the mission and passionate about the results...It is contagious and it is up-lifting...we are honored to have a small part of his tremendous journey…giving the gift of giving to the community. For this project, we built much needed storage spaces, installed cabinets, shelving and lights (turning those dim lit rooms into brightly lit and energized rooms), renovated bathrooms, kitchens and office spaces, installed a multi-purpose swing set and repaired the plumbing giving the Center a Face Lift.

• Finally over to the St Jude's School for Girls, our mission was to restore a
dilapidated broken down 40 room building that had been closed/condemned for four years. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Head Sister Katrina...who told us that she had been praying for this and that "her prayers had finally been answered"; well so had ours. The project was the complete renovation of the facility. It was our most demanding and our most rewarding project. For two weeks, we worked closely with their corps of Army Engineers to rebuild the clinic. That kind of team work and cooperation was pervasive throughout every aspect of the entire mission…it was a true partnering of time, energy and effort. Every inch of progress and every step forward was a step together... side by side, shoulder to shoulder, shovel to shovel and scalpel to scalpel with our friends, our neighbors our partners in Trinidad. It was a grand project with grand success. Similar to our previous country visits, we arrived as “partners and neighbors”, but we parted as "friends and family".

Since departing Norfolk, Va. On 6 August, the "TEAM", as I have come to fondly refer to them, has completed humanitarian assistance missions in Nicaragua and Colombia, Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago. During our routine humanitarian assistance mission, we were able to provide critical disaster relief assistance to Haiti in the wake of the terrible destruction caused by the tropical storms and cyclones. So now we find ourselves off the coast of Guyana; our last, but not least, country visit before returning home. We are determined for Guyana to be an “exclamation point” on a successful mission. We are focused and we remain committed.

Our mission, so personal and endearing it has become; exemplifies a United States Maritime Strategy that emphasizes deploying capability to strengthen relationships with our friends and our neighbors within the Western Hemisphere. It is a mission that has changed the perceptions and outlook of those involved and looking on. It is about common goals and, stability and prosperity. We are glad to be here, and we are making a difference. Let's us return to our business at hand.

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