Posted By: Kris Radder on May 19, 2011

Labels: Disaster and Health Crisis Missions, Tonga, Vanuatu , Chronic Disease, Health Care Education, Volunteers

The Pacific Partnership 2011 (PP 11) medical team leaves Vanuatu having treated nearly 5,000 people and providing health education to 3,300. As the USS Cleveland prepared for its voyage to another stop on the five-country humanitarian assistance mission, three incredible Project HOPE volunteers have completed their time caring for people in Tonga and Vanuatu, and will return to their homes or other adventures. 

Several of the volunteers have spent more than a month on the ship, yet all agree is now seems like just seconds. William Aiken, Jo Anne Bennett and Aislinn Mangan take some time to reflect on the memories they made as part of PP 11 team before departing the USS Cleveland.  

One of Aiken’s proudest moments was when he helped create an ongoing way to communicate important diabetes information that will benefit Tongans long after the volunteers leave. “I had an opportunity to educate a patient on some of the things she should do and not do to help control her type 2 diabetes,” he says. “It turned into a 30-minute conversation with a lot of helpful information.”  Read More

For Bennett, traveling all over the islands to teach important health education is her highlight. "It’s is hard to pick out one moment. But in recent memory, today was a great day,” she says with a smile. “We traveled to two different places, a picturesque village to educate children and a remote village in the mountains. At both places, we offered diabetes education, including prevention and control to try and help prevent diabetes from being as big of a problem as it is Tonga.” 

“From a public health stand point, our number one focus is about prevention,” she adds.  “A lot of the good we have done, that the entire Pacific Partnership team has done, is to be able to come in and provide services, like prevention and screening."  

As Bennett departs from Pacific Partnership, her good deeds and talented skills will still be at work in Vanuatu. She is staying on the island, an extra 11 days, to visit with colleagues that she worked with during her time with the World Health Organization.  

Mangan says she will miss the camaraderie between the HOPE volunteers, other NGO volunteers and the military team onboard the USS Cleveland that contributed to the successful medical sites that treated so many people. "Overall I think it went really well. I met a lot of people from the locals to the military and my fellow NGO's (non-government organization). I learned a lot from them both medically and personally," she says. 

Mangan says the volunteer mission not only gave her an opportunity to help others. She learned a lot well. “I learned how to operate a CHIME (A PDA used in the field to monitor patients progress through a medical site), about new tropical diseases and especially about being part of a well organized medical team in remote settings,” she says, “I am going to miss the people I worked with and the locals the most."  

As the USS Cleveland sails away to the next far away land, we are sad to say goodbye to our three friends. We are also preparing for the next adventure with five new bright Project HOPE volunteers. Read more about the new volunteers soon!

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