The first Project HOPE – New Horizons partnership in Peru kicked off recently, beginning a six-week land-based mission in collaboration with the U.S. Air Force in the Pisco region of southwestern Peru. Although Project HOPE has participated in four missions with the Air Force, this is the first with U.S. Southern Command/New Horizons.
In 2007 a devastating 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck central Peru, with the epicenter located in the Pisco area. Over 500 people were killed, with thousands injured. The disaster response was chaotic, and several years later, the effects can still be seen. Many buildings still lie in ruin, rubble still lines the streets in places, and the communities are still slowly rebuilding.
New Horizon’s goal is to provide much needed clinical services to the local population, but also to help prepare for future disaster response. Establishing a positive relationship with the people is a crucial element to achieving this goal, and providing the clinics is a first and important step in this process.
The first rotation of seven volunteers began work in June, at the outreach site in San Clemente, which offers pediatrics, OB/GYN, general medicine, optical and dental services. Project HOPE volunteers for this rotation are being utilized in pediatrics and general medicine, as well as providing much needed interpreter support. A contingent site has also been set up in Pisco’s local hospital for ophthalmology, offering free surgery for referrals from the outreach site.
In the first two days, the volunteers and military medical team cared for more than 1300 patients in the San Clemente site alone, and a steady flow of patients is expected to continue through the week. The response from the local community has been overwhelmingly positive.
One HOPE volunteer, Dr. Lee Morris, is joining Project HOPE after having worked in several global health environments including Haiti and Cameroon. A pediatrician specializing in pediatric infectious disease, she previously completed a medical Spanish course in Cusco, Peru, as a medical student and chose to return to Peru with Project HOPE to give back to the community.
Dr. Morris commented, “This is my first time with Project HOPE, and I have had a really good experience collaborating with the Air Force. It’s also been wonderful to work with the families here. They are so appreciative and really wonderful people.”
Being land-based, the New Horizons mission offers the benefit of allowing volunteers to live and work in the communities they serve. The New Horizons mission plans to set up several outreach sites throughout the six-week time span, which will allow the volunteers to see many parts of the area and work with different populations throughout the region.
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