Volunteers Provide Shade and Comfort for Tuberculosis Patients
Early on a Saturday morning, May 19, 2012, before the normal duty day began at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, 18 volunteers gathered, coffee in hand and work gloves in pockets.
This was the first day of a month-long project to provide shade for patients of the Paul Faure Tuberculosis Hospital, a project that originated through a civil affairs team of Delta Company, 490th Civil Affairs Battalion, a U.S. Army Reserve unit based in Grand Prairie, Texas.
"It's the small things that the Americans do for us that mean the most," said Moussa Hassan, director of the Paul Faure Tuberculosis Hospital.
Members of the Community Assistance Volunteers (CAV), a group of service members from all military branches assigned to Camp Lemonnier and Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, volunteer their free time to assist the local community.
"I know that health care is an issue so I wanted to come out and make a difference--give back to the people of Djibouti while I'm here," said first-time volunteer U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Dana Perodeau, 726th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron. He added that he plans on seeing the project through to its completion.
This particular project involves assembling two tents, creating a shaded walkway, adding concertina wire around the hospital perimeter and removing old shade posts.
All of the materials needed for the project were procured at no-cost from the Defense Reutilization Management Office and self help office located at Camp Lemonnier, according to U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Michael Zerniak, CJTF-HOA operations crisis planning officer and CAV project leader for the tuberculosis hospital.
Zerniak first heard about the project when he attended a CAV meeting in mid-December 2011.
"I knew there was a need for volunteers, and since I have a background in construction, I decided to step forward," he said.
The real planning began in March, when Zerniak and other volunteers conducted a pre-deployment site survey of the hospital, which helped them shape their work priorities. The finer details came together toward the end of April, and now the project is in full-swing.
"A lot of sick people sit in the sun waiting for their consultation with the doctor or to get their medicine, around 150 people a day. The sun shade means a lot to these people, allowing them to rest and wait in comfort," said Dr. Mohammed Osman, Paul Faure Tuberculosis Hospital assistant director.
Volunteers plan to work four Saturday mornings to complete the project.
Unfortunately, Zerniak said he will not be able to see the project to completion, as his six-month deployment to the Horn of Africa is coming to an end. "I'm taken aback by the amount of volunteers who consistently come out to support the community, demonstrating their willingness to help. It's a sign of the good hearts our comrades have," he said.
Zerniak plans to hand the project over to U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Mark Vaughn, deputy director of CJTF-HOA civil-military operations, who is no stranger to the CAV group, having already completed more than 200 hours of community service, and U.S. Air Force Major Chris Blackwell, country planner, who regularly volunteers with his church organization when he's home in Dayton, Ohio.
Newcomers to the CAV group are always welcome, with many learning of the events via email asking for volunteers or through word of mouth from friends or coworkers. On the second Saturday of the project, May 26, three new volunteers joined the ranks.
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Kickuth, CJTF-HOA request-for-information manager, is one such volunteer.
"There are people in town that can use our assistance, and I'm happy to give my time to help them," he said.