Haiti's Poor Receive Medical Aid From Crew of USNS Comfort

(April 22, 2009) --  The very young and the elderly who are served by Food For The Poor in Haiti received medical treatment this month as part of the hospital ship USNS Comfort’s deployment in Haiti, the first of seven countries the ship will visit as part of a four-month humanitarian mission in the Caribbean, Central and South America.

The treatments range from general check-ups, dental and eye examinations in some of the surrounding communities to surgery onboard the ship. In total, 450 people sponsored by Food For The Poor were able to get necessary medical care that is rarely available to them in Haiti.

“We are so grateful to the people who have given of themselves on this mission, so that the people we serve can enjoy the benefits of medical care that is so hard to come by in the Third World,” said Angel Aloma, Executive Director of Food for the Poor. “It is especially heartwarming to see the children get basic dental care and check-ups, and to know that this will help them continue to prosper in our care.”

The scene was busy and crowded, but organized. Little girls from Food For The Poor’s House of Love orphanage waited quietly in chairs under a tent, giggling at the soldiers who were watching over them until time for the medical staff to see them. Some of the people going aboard the Comfort for treatment could not walk and had to be carried on board the small boats being used to transport patients from shore. Others were able to get fitted with eyeglasses, after being examined for the first time.

The next stop is the Dominican Republic. The humanitarian deployment will also include stops in Antigua, Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama, where the ship's crew will partner with local health care providers and community officials to provide free medical and dental care, as well as support for engineering projects for citizens and communities with limited access to those services.

The hospital ship's mission, Continuing Promise 2009, is an annual humanitarian assistance operation supported by U.S. and international military medical personnel, U.S. government agencies, regional health ministries, nongovernmental organizations and U.S. academic institutions. The Comfort is staffed with a military and civilian crew consisting of more than 800.

In Haiti, the mission had a critical need for speakers of Creole, and Food For The Poor was able to provide more than a dozen translators onboard the ship to help crew members understand the needs and provide care for the patients. Cartier Cassion, a Food For The Poor volunteer on the ship, was honored with the Person of the Day award for his service. Because of his work, he was chosen to help the captain with translation onshore on the last full day of the mission in Haiti.

“The mission was a blessing to us, and we are so proud of everyone who worked so hard to show people that someone cares,” said Kareen Dolce, Executive Director of Food For The Poor/Haiti. “I am especially proud of Cartier’s work on behalf of the poor and all the volunteers that he represents. It is wonderful to see people moved to be involved.”

Food For The Poor, the largest international relief and development organization in the United States, serves the poor of the Caribbean and Latin America. Food For The Poor provides food, emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, basic housing, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance. More than 97 percent of all donations received in 2008 went toward programs that help the poor. For more information, visit www.foodforthepoor.org.

Kathy Skipper
(954) 427-2222 x 6614