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HOPE works in more than 35 countires worldwide. Please enjoy our blog as we document the successes and challenges of our work to provide Health Opportunities for People Everywhere.

Volunteering in the Philippines on Pacific Partnership 2014

Posted By James Mayger, Project HOPE volunteer on July 17, 2014

Labels: The Philippines , Humanitarian Aid, Alumni, Volunteers

A navy psychiatric nurse gives a seminar on how to deal with a violent patient on Pacific Partnership 2014, Tacloban, the Philippines

James Mayger, a native of Australia, is an editor for Bloomberg News in Tokyo who covers the macro-economy of Japan and North Asia.  As a fluent speaker of Japanese, James is volunteering for Project HOPE as the liaison between the Japanese Navy and the Project HOPE volunteers and other English speakers during Pacific Partnership 2014, the annual humanitarian mission led by the U.S. Navy to Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Today, the US Navy and the Japanese Self Defense Force ran a psychiatry seminar for nurses and orderlies of the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Centre in Tacloban.

Poverty in Tacloban, the Philippines, where people still need help after Typhoon Yolanda caused massive destruction

The hospital was badly damaged by Typhoon Yolanda, and reconstruction is still ongoing.  Builders and carpenters are rebuilding wards, and the carpark is a pile of ruined equipment and bed frames.

First, a U.S. navy psychiatric nurse ran a seminar on how to calm violent or potentially violent patients, including how to de-escalate a potentially violent situation so as to ensure the safety of both the patient and staff member.  The seminar included advice on how to break the hold of a patient, if attacked, and also how to recognize the signs of a potentially dangerous situation.  The hospital plans to open an inpatient ward this month for psychiatric patients, and the lessons about how to approach distressed people, and how to stop staff from getting injured should be immediately applicable.

Project HOPE volunteers on Rotation 4 of Pacific Partnership 2014 in Tacloban, the Philippines

In addition, a Japanese army psychiatrist spoke about steps that health care and medical workers can take to avoid PTSD and other psychological distress from working in disaster zones.  Many of the staff of the hospital were double victims of the typhoons, losing houses, family, and friends, and then dealing with the injured and dead after the disaster. The seminar applied lessons from Japan's response to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami to suggest strategies and tools for health care workers to reduce the psychological impact of a disaster and its cleanup.

Staff at the hospital previously expressed the view that they wanted to look forward, and not revisit the typhoons and its effects.  However, the suggestions and tips from Japan's experience provide help not only in dealing with the effects of Yolanda, but other traumas and disasters that may occur in the future.


The Philippines in July 2014 - How has it changed?

Posted By James Calderwood, RN, Project HOPE Volunteer on July 15, 2014

Labels: The Philippines , Humanitarian Aid, Alumni, Volunteers

James Calderwood, RN, Project HOPE volunteer in Tacloban, Philippines on Pacific Partnership 2014

James Calderwood is a registered nurse and health policy research associate from Washington D.C. He volunteered for Project HOPE in the Philippines immediately following Typhoon Haiyan (called Yolanda in the Philippines) in November 2013 and has now returned to the Philippines as a Project HOPE volunteer on Rotation 4 of Pacific Partnership 2014, the annual humanitarian mission led by the U.S. Navy to Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

On November 8, 2014 Typhoon Yolanda hit land and destroyed much of the central Philippines.  Tacloban, a town situated on the water, was dramatically affected by the winds and rain of the typhoon. And then real disaster struck when the storm surge - in some areas reaching 15 feet - rolled through town.  Everyone was affected by the powerful wall of water; it is estimated that 6,000 people perished that day.

As a Project HOPE volunteer I arrived in the Philippines about a week after the typhoon.  Though my primary assignment was in the rural Camotes Islands, I spent some time in Tacloban.  Even the short time I was here, I recognized the sense of community – of teamwork – of people working together to help each other, which was truly remarkable amidst the death and devastation.

James Calderwood, RN, Project HOPE volunteer with people affected by Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban, the Philippines

Now, July 8, 2014 – eight months later – I am in Tacloban as a Project HOPE volunteer, working with the U.S. Department of Defense as part of Pacific Partnership 2014.   The Philippine military and the Japanese Maritime Self-defense Force are our partners.  The work varies from medical care to reconstructing a local school. 

Riding to and from our worksites, I see many changes since November.  Instead of fallen trees and debris, the streets are crowded with pedicabs (bicycles with passenger side-cars), tricycles (motor cycles with passenger sidecars), and an occasional truck or van.  People are selling food and various sundries from small carts or stalls.  The large modern mall even reopened last week. 

James Calderwood, RN, Project HOPE volunteer with members of the Philippine military on Pacific Partnership 2014

While overall, there are fewer blue tarps serving as roofs, laundry can be seen drying on sunny porches attached to structures that are missing roofs, windows, and often an outside wall or two.  Several families are managing to survive together inside each structure.  While some areas have electric power reconnected – others rely on generators for special activities; many are grateful for candlelight.

Nevertheless, the people continue to be positive and hopeful, and focused on the future.   They take pride in their resiliency.  It is mentioned in church sermons today, as it was back in November.  The vision is to move forward, not to dwell on the past.   There is an amazing thankfulness for the present.  There is an appreciation for what they have – and never a complaint about what they don’t have.  The human spirit is here.


Project HOPE Volunteer Surgical Team Arrives in Pnom Penh

Posted By Faye Pyles, NP, Project HOPE volunteer on July 11, 2014

Labels: Cambodia , Humanitarian Aid, Alumni, Volunteers

Project HOPE volunteers arrive in Pnom Penh

Project HOPE volunteers from all over the United States arrived in Pnom Penh, Cambodia today to start what should be an exciting and rewarding mission.  The team is comprised of volunteers with a great depth of surgical experience and expertise.

Our orthopedic surgeon is experienced Project HOPE volunteer Dr. Paul Reiss from Seattle.  Our anesthesia team is comprised of very experienced nurse anesthetist, Judy Crowley, from Texas and Dr. Rachel Brown, from Tennessee, who is new to HOPE but experienced in health care in austere settings.  Our two OR nurses are Dakota Wheeler, from Florida, with a wealth of experience in the surgical arena as well as a previous HOPE volunteer and Amy Brunk, from Kansas, a new volunteer but an experienced operating room nurse.

HOPE volunteer Dr. Paul Reiss trains surgeons in Pnom Penh

As you can surmise we have brought a wealth of experience and talent from all over the U.S.  Despite the thirty hours of travel, we disembarked enthusiastically, ready to be part of the HOPE team.

Our energetic group of volunteers decided to take the afternoon to acquaint themselves with part of the history that has shaped the Cambodia we encounter today.  We visited the memorials for the victims of the Khmer Rouge Regime. The visit to Choeung Ek Memorial (the Killing Fields) and the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum set a somber tone for our first day.  To a person, however, the team found this an appropriate start to our sojourn in this beautiful country.

Participants in Pacific Partnership's surgical training in Pnom Penh pose for a group photo

The next day, which is historically the rest day for team members having crossed multiple time zones, several members of the team took a somewhat arduous one-day excursion trip to the historic temples of Angkor Wat.   This visit put into perspective the long and significant history of this country.   Cambodia is a nation of resilience, which has been shaped by a long and amazing history of grandeur and tragedy.  Sometimes playing the tourist is an essential component of understanding the countries in which we work.

Our orthopedics team work starts today with a cardiology symposium this morning and an orientation to the surgical areas this afternoon. This is an exciting day for our group. Coming from half a world away to exchange experiences and knowledge with our peers in Cambodia, we are all anxious to get started.  The cases reviewed this afternoon and in the morning will set the tone for the next four surgical days.  This will be a brief but exciting time for all involved.


Nursing Students Offer Support in Dominican Republic

Posted By Volunteer Deanna Pilkenton, CNM, MSN, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing on July 2, 2014

Labels: Dominican Republic , Women’s and Children’s Health, Health Care Education, Volunteers

Deanna Pilkenton, CNM, MSN, an Instructor of Nurse-Midwifery at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing took two nursing students to work in the Project HOPE supported women's and children's health clinics in the Dominican Republic.

Vanderbilt School of Nursing Students Help in Dominican Republic

It was my first time as a Vanderbilt University School of Nursing faculty member to lead a group of students to the Dominican Republic with Project HOPE. What a fantastic first experience! Myself and two nurse-midwifery students, Anna Calhoun and Emily Seimer, recently spent ten days in the DR with the fabulous Teresa Narvaez, HOPE's country director,  as our on-the-ground expert chaperon.

We spent the majority of the time working at the urban Herrera Clinic. We participated in prenatal and postpartum care, home-visits, and community education. The clinic staff and medical providers were welcoming and generous with their time and expertise. The patients and community members of Herrera were fabulous— allowing us to ask questions, to observe, and to experience a bit of their culture. Getting to know the people of the Herrera community, participating in home-visits, and observing clinic operations were definite highlights of the trip.

Vanderbilt School of Nursing Students Help in Dominican Republic

In addition to our experience in Herrera, Teresa also arranged several other valuable experiences for us. We toured the Monte Plata Clinic, in the rural town of the same name. We were able to see first-hand construction of the new clinic in Haina, just outside the capital city of Santo Domingo. And we were also able to attend the National Vaccination Week inaugural event at a local school in Santo Domingo, where many prominent Ministry of Health representatives spoke, and where we were able to meet the Minister of Health himself, Wilfredo Hidalgo!

Our Project HOPE volunteer stint was a great experience for all of us, students and teacher alike. Our objectives were to participate in outpatient clinical work, and also to have a valuable cultural exchange. Teresa and Matt, the Project HOPE staff, and the beautiful people of the Herrera community, made this an overwhelming success. We look forward to returning next year!

Learn more about the Project HOPE supported clinics in the Dominican Republic.

Help stock the third clinic now!


Assessing Medical Needs of Flood Victims in Bosnia

Posted By Dr. Dalibor Tasevski, Senior Medical Advisor for Project HOPE on May 29, 2014

Labels: Bosnia and Herzegovina , Disaster-Relief, Humanitarian Aid

Flooding in Odjak, Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Project HOPE field team traveled to northern Bosnia to assess needs for medicines and supplies following Cyclone “Tamara,” which brought the heaviest rainfall in 120 years of recorded weather measurements to the area from May 14-16, 2014.  From our previous visit to Doboj, we thought we knew what to expect. We assumed we would see piles of destroyed homes, trees and trash on the side of the road, people working hard to clean and disinfect and a community working together to rebuild.

What we saw upon arrival to Odjak and Orashje, however, was even more hopeless.  The towns are still under water and completely deserted.  The water is still high enough that waders are necessary to walk around.  The smell is unbearable, consisting of rotten fish, dead animals and contamination. Odjak, which had a population of about 21,000 people, now has about 10 guys working to clear out the water.  It’s a ghost town.  To add to the devastation, the heat of the weather is attracting mosquitoes and other bugs that will bring diseases and infections.  Not only are the homes and buildings ruined, but so is the land.

Project HOPE's Country Director for Bosnia and Herzegovina Sejdefa Catic Basic observes the flooding in Orashje

Orashje, a town with a population of about 20,000 people, is also still under water.  Here, we saw about 30 people actively trying to clear the water and take back their homes.  We were able to reach a part of the city where the water had been removed. This is where the hospital is.  We went inside to meet with the canton’s Minister of Health, Dr. Blaz Zuparic and the director of the hospital, Dr. Ruzica Vukic.  Since this canton is the most heavily affected area, this meeting was designed to connect Project HOPE with the proper officials so that we could gather information on the current situation, what is needed in terms of medicines and medical supplies, what would be needed in the future for programs or volunteers and any other way Project HOPE could help the canton and the hospitals.

The Project HOPE field team meets with officials in Orashje, Bosnia

After the meeting, the field team left with a good understanding of what is needed and a better realization of the devastation of the flooding.  The director emphasized the need for aid from psychiatrists to address the mental health trauma caused by the devastating flooding.

Over the coming days and weeks, I will be working closely with our staff in the United States to coordinate a first air shipment from Project HOPE’s distribution center in Winchester, Virginia to the region carrying the donated medicines and supplies that were requested.  Project HOPE’s field team is also working to identify specific needs for medical volunteers in the affected region.


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