Posted By: Kris Radder on April 22, 2011

Labels: Disaster and Health Crisis Missions, Tonga , Health Care Education, Humanitarian Aid, Volunteers

The sunrise brightened the spirits of the medical crew as they caught an early morning ride ashore, to the main medical site at Prince NGU Hospital at Vava'u Tonga.  

Although the Project HOPE volunteers and other medical staff arrived at the facility early, a line of patients had already formed. As the staff hurried to prepare the medical site for a busy day, the locals performed a religious ceremony, filling the air with beautiful songs.  

Nurses, Bridget Binko and Aislinn Mangan were among the HOPE volunteers working onshore, helping to triage the crowd, register patients and work alongside the doctors. 

"It was a very interesting and productive day,” says Binko. “The doctors were very helpful and very instructive with the patients.” 

Jo Anne Bennett also lent a hand organizing medical records at the medical site. 

David Haveman, a Baptist minister from the U.S., who moved to Tonga about a year ago, visited the site to talk with volunteers about some of the major health concerns he has seen during his time Tonga--Type two diabetes was at the top of his list.  

“You see many people with missing toes and ligaments because most people are overweight due to diets high in starch,” he says. “There is a lot of sugar in the food eaten here -- a lot of rice, sweet potatoes, yams -- and it is not balanced out.” 

Haveman says that it is a blessing for Pacific Partnership 2011 to visit Tonga and help improve the health of the people living on the island nation. Haveman expressed a need for long-term sustainable health practices for the people of Tonga. 

A key goal for Pacific Partnership 2011 and Project HOPE in general, is to help create sustainable health care programs. One of the best ways to do that is through health education, especially educating the younger generation on how to take care of themselves and others. 

HOPE volunteer Bill Aiken was able to do just that when he traveled to a local high school to teach first aid to a large class of close to 200 people. "It was challenging, interesting and very rewarding,” Aiken says.  

And while he was teaching some lifesaving health care practices to the many Tongans present , he also learned a bit himself. “I learned a new technique for treating insect bites. In Tonga, they use a certain plant and squeeze the juice out of it and rub it into the bite."  

A lesson he plans on sharing with his fellow volunteers.

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