Yesterday, afternoon, I participated in the Department of Defense’s Bloggers Roundtable with CDR. Mark Marino, USN, Director of Nursing aboard USNS COMFORT (T-AH-20). My first question focused on NGOs.
Q: Can you tell us about the Comfort’s partnership with NGOs like Project Hope?
A: CDR. MARINO: Oh, sure. I’m happy to.
You know, we actually have a pretty long and significant history with partnering with a number of NGOs, not just Project Hope. On our last mission, in various forms or fashions, I believe we had easily probably 10 to 15 different partnerships going with a number of NGOs. And that might have been just either donated goods or the actual physical presence of personnel.
For this particular mission, we already have Project Hope personnel on board, and they are assessing how they can fit into the organizational structure and what specialty personnel, what specialty medical personnel they’re going to be able to bring. And I believe the goal is to slowly incorporate them — not slowly, actually pretty quickly, in the next seven days to two weeks — start incorporating the volunteers into the organizational structure.
We’ve also had feedback from Operation Smile, and there is an Operation Smile representative on board. You know, their mission has been traditionally to do cleft palate care to young children, but they have offered up surgeons and other staff to help care for our patients in other areas.
We have had — or we’ve had the Church of Latter-Day Saints reach out to us. They were partners with us on our last mission. They have — let’s see — orthopedic surgeons, emergency surgeons, general surgeons, pediatric, all the specialties in nursing, as well as ancillary services (and they have ?) respiratory technicians. And they are all willing to jump in, and they’ve got people standing by.
So hopefully in the next week to two weeks we will start rotating these people in. So again, we do have partners with us already, and they are assessing how they can fit into the organization, but in such short notice, we wanted to get our military folks up and running and on the ship, and get them in country as quickly as we could. And then we are now making arrangements to start that partnership with the various NGOs that’ll be joining us.
The COMFORT’s ability to forge partnerships with NGOs is one for the textbooks especially since, according to former President Bill Clinton, there are over 10,000 NGOs in Haiti.
According to an email I received from PROJECT HOPE, 22 pallets of donated medical supplies, valued at $177,000, have been shipped to Haiti via COMFORT.