Thursday, September 10, 2015

Our First Rotation

Our first medical rotation is complete and we think it went quite well!  It was prefaced by some anxiety about the unknown, some unforeseen events, difficulty in provisioning here, and boat equipment failures; despite the challenges the entire team and the clinic staff here in Pangai performed splendidly.  In the first week of rotation the newly coronated King of Tonga arrived and all of the islands in the Ha’apai group took part in the celebration. We enjoyed the activities here in Pangai but were unable to fully put the volunteer’s talents to work. Also, Karen and I had a harrowing few minutes on day two as we were running the generator and the RO fresh water-maker.  I was in the cockpit and noticed black smoke starting to bellow out of the small manual bilge pump handle holes. It turned out to be an electrical fire in the water maker control box! It took a fire extinguisher, and a bunch of engine room clean up to recover.  Fortunately it was contained to the water maker and both we and the boat were safe.  The result however, is that we are now routinely schlepping water from the police station rainwater catchment system to the Sea Angel fresh water tanks.

These setbacks however have been FAR overshadowed by the blessings, kindness, thoughtfulness, and help from these wonderful Tongan people!  We stand in gratitude and through these words we can only touch on the highlights….

When we arrived we stepped immediately into the wonderful legacy of Sea Mercy’s prior work here over the last few seasons.  There has been such a beautiful warm, kind, and over the top welcoming feeling for our arrival. They want and need our services here desperately. We see the difficulties they face with the costs to provide adequate health care to the outer islands and so very much appreciate our being here to help reach those people. Craig from the resort on Uoleva Island offered us the use of his private mooring ball, the only one in the tiny inner harbor where we are safe from all wind directions and have great ease in our frequent departure and arrivals in Pangai. The clinic here provides us all of our transportation needs in Pangai, and they have done our large bags of guest laundry; both of which are of great help to us. The Police department gives us free access to their rainwater catchment systems; the Army has offered us any and all help we might need.  Matt at the Ha’apai Beach Resort, and Magda at the Mariners CafĂ© have opened their hearts and help in any way we need.

We have also been guests at the local church to two separate over the top “feasts” celebrating the arrival and departure of pastors. On our return from church dressed in our finest attire, drenched in pouring down rain and finding our dingy stuck under the concrete pier, two boys without hesitation jumped into the water and tirelessly worked it out for us. As I was lamenting the toasted water maker and a suspected need to replace the main sail, an angelic couple anchored near us- he was an electrician and she was a sail-maker! She fetched her machine and sewed up the main on the spot, also giving me assurance the main was in good shape and not in need of replacement.  He troubleshot the water maker with me and it appears it may be possible to rebuild the part that burnt. On shore in the outer islands, as the team and staff worked though the lines of patients, the locals would bring baskets brimming with coconuts, lobster, papayas and local foods for lunch and as gifts.

In all we went to the villages of Uiha and Felemea on Uiha Island,  Ha’ano village one day and Fakakakai village on another day (both on Ha’ano Island),  and the village on Lofanga.   In some places the team set up our mobile clinics in the back of trucks, under shade cloths stretched between palm trees on the beach, community halls, and occasionally a rarely visited outpost clinic building.  We will be compiling a report on the patients seen, prevalent diagnosis, general observations, eyeglasses and sunglasses distributed, and dental work performed to aid Sea Mercy and future volunteers prepare for and best address the needs of these wonderful island peoples.

For more photos from our first rotation, visit our facebook page here. For more information on our cause, visit The Catamaran has now traveled from Carolina Beach, NC, to Tonga- to become a FHCC (Floating Health Care Clinic) for Sea Mercy - and we've completed our first rotation. Sea Mercy's vision is to be the most effective preventive, curative, promotional and rehabilitative floating health care provider and service delivery mechanism to support the remote citizens of the island nations. Their mission is therefore to ensure that the community sector has the practical tools and talent available to accomplish those visionary ends. To accomplish this in the short term they will provide floating health clinics to needy populations. To effect long term community improvement, they work to increase awareness of the health issues facing these vulnerable populations.

Please consider getting involved or donating to Sea Mercy, or simply share our cause with your friends and family. Thank you for being with us on this journey!