Project HOPE volunteers arrived at the U.S. Air Force camp outside of Pekanbaru at sunset, a flurry of action in an otherwise quiet, rural area. Tents were being raised in a field by a group of over 100 Air Force personnel while heavy equipment unloaded pallets as they arrived on flatbed trucks from the airport 45 minutes away. This is the first mission utilizing the HARRT and Operation Pacific Angel units of the Air Force in a joint response, a trial run of their combined resources and potential.
HOPE’s four volunteers didn’t join the C-17s that arrived from Guam with supplies and personnel. We met at LAX and flew commercially through Taipei to Jakarta, a 22-hour journey. After a night in Jakarta, we jumped one more leg to Pekanbaru in central Sumatra, but first managed to spend a few hours downtown visiting national monuments and the largest mosque in Indonesia.
Anticipation for the next week’s activities occupied many of the conversations between this mission’s two medical volunteers.
Noreen Prokuski participated last year with the Project HOPE Pacific Angel mission in Vietnam and immediately noticed some differences between the two missions. In the past, participants stayed in hotels and worked out of local clinics and hospitals. Staying onsite in military tents with a portable clinic is a big change and Noreen is excited to be connected closer to the communities she will be working with by living in their community 24/7 and not being sequestered in a hotel.
Susan Opas has been trying for years to fit volunteering with Project HOPE into her schedule and is delighted to be on her first mission. She can’t wait to get to work and be involved with pediatric patients and women’s health education.
“Seeing how people live and move in such congestion, taking risks that we in the States would never consider, like riding 4+ on a moped, makes me wonder what type of medical conditions we’ll come across in Pekanbaru. What was nicely surprising was that over 99% of people were wearing helmets,” Opas says.
Tomorrow, the medical tents will be set up and final preparations for camp assembled. There are currently no showers and only two shared squat-toilets in a nearby building. Medical care should begin on Sunday with a minimum of 700 patients a day and everyone is expecting a busy time.
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