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Gunston Hall Delivers Project Handclasp Material to Sao Tome Charity

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS100404-06
Release Date: 4/4/2010 9:47:00 PM

From Africa Partnership Station 2010 Public Affairs

SAO TOME (NNS) -- Sailors from Beach Master Unit 2, along with Maritime Civil Affairs Team (MCAT) 203, USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) and Africa Partnership Station (APS) West, delivered 27 pallets of wheelchairs and computers to an organization in Sao Tome March 23.

The donated material, delivered on behalf of Project Handclasp, was given to the Sao Tome and Principe Union for Promotion (STeP UP).

STeP UP works with grassroots organizations to develop and facilitate projects for training and community improvement. A total of 20 pallets of wheelchairs and seven pallets of computers were hoisted out of Landing Craft Unit 1660 and tied to a commercial pier in Sao Tome.

Watching the pallets make their way onto a flat-bed truck, Ned Seligman, director of Step UP, said without the help of the Navy, the delivery of wheelchairs and computers would be next to impossible.

"It would be very expensive to ship these items to Sao Tome," said Seligman. "It just wouldn't happen."

Seligman said this was the second year that his organization has received donations through the Navy and Project Handclasp. He also mentioned that the number of wheelchairs donated this year had increased from 20 to 105.

Project Handclasp works with different organizations to distribute goods worldwide, said Lt. j.g. Dan Day, MCAT 203 officer-in-charge.

"It's a space-available program to take donated items to overseas locations. They provide the critical link of connecting organizations in the [United] States to charitable groups worldwide," said Day.

Originally scheduled for delivery in February 2010, the ship was diverted to aid in earthquake relief operations in Haiti as part of Operation Unified Response. Once the ship made it to West Africa, plans were put into place to make the trip to Sao Tome to complete the delivery.

"We never stopped the planning process to get these items to the people in need in Sao Tome," said Day. "I never doubted that we would get there."

Gunston Hall is on a scheduled deployment in West Africa in support of APS West, an international initiative developed by U.S. Naval Forces Europe and U.S. Naval Forces Africa that aims to improve maritime safety and security in West and Central Africa.

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