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Project HOPE Lends a Helping Hand in Haiti

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS100208-10
Release Date: 2/8/2010 1:12:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Edwardo Proano, USNS Comfort Public Affairs

USNS COMFORT, At Anchor (NNS) -- Doctors and nurses with Project HOPE (Help Opportunities for People Everywhere) joined 33 fellow volunteers aboard USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) Feb. 4 to help provide medical services to victims of the earthquake that devastated Haiti earlier this year.

During their three-week mission, the 28 new arrivals will reinforce efforts already started when the first HOPE volunteers embarked the hospital ship Jan. 26.

"When I heard the news about the earthquake in Haiti, I knew that Comfort was going to help," said Dr. Harold Timboe, medical director and senior representative for the Project HOPE team aboard Comfort. "I contacted Project HOPE immediately to volunteer my services and join the gathering team."

Project HOPE is a non-governmental organization founded in 1958 to provide medical training and health education. Their first interaction with the U.S. Navy was during disaster relief efforts for Indonesia in the wake of a tsunami that devastated the country in 2004. This was HOPE's defining moment of providing medical assistance during a humanitarian mission.

"I'm happy that they're here to help us," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Victoria Haught, from King George, Va. "In my opinion, these patients need a lot of help, and non-military volunteers are always welcome to help out."

Many volunteers embarked on the hospital ship are prior service members who familiar with operations aboard Comfort. Some even participated in Comfort's humanitarian mission to Indonesia during the tsunami in 2004 and to Latin America for Continuing Promise 2009.

"I was an active duty nurse when I worked with volunteers of Project HOPE during the tsunami mission in Indonesia," said Carma Ericksom-Hurt, Project HOPE chief nursing officer aboard Comfort. "I volunteered knowing that I was going to work with Project HOPE aboard Comfort."

HOPE volunteers are also assisting with patient transfers and discharges. Angela Portillo, a nurse from Moorefield, W.Va., who tracks the status of patient administration charts was at home when she saw the news of the earthquake in Haiti. She immediately contacted Project HOPE to come and help out with relief efforts.

"[Portillo] is an incredible asset to this mission," said Lt. j.g. Rachel A. Cousins, a Navy registered nurse from Lakewood, Colo. "I like the fact that Project HOPE volunteers like her come to help us out."

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