About the Author: Tom Weinz is the dedicated Foreign Service Liaison Officer (FSLO) aboard the USNS Richard E. Byrd for Pacific Partnership 2009 (PP09).“The little unremembered acts of kindness and love are the best parts of a person’s life.”
Samoa’s deputy prime minister quoted these words of William Wordsworth during his dedication speech for work done at the National Hospital. Pacific Partnership 2009 (PP09) is fully choreographed to achieve maximum results during relatively short visits. But the multifaceted, multitalented men and women carrying out this mission are interacting in uniquely spontaneous ways which will be remembered by countless individuals throughout their lives.
Without doubt, the medical focus of PP09 is central, and here are some impressive numbers: at our four MEDCAP sites, doctors met with 2,144 patients; dentists cared for 601 patients; optometrists tested 685 individuals (and dispensed free glasses as needed.) PP09 experts presented educational exchanges and classes to more than 3,500 local students, nurses, doctors and teachers, and participated in more advanced subject matter exchanges with 224 people. PP09 biomedical technicians repaired 44 pieces of equipment that were not functioning when we arrived in Samoa. (The veterinarians also provided outstanding service, but more on that in a later piece.)
One two-year-old boy in the village of Lalomanu will grow up with the story of how his life was saved by a U.S. Navy surgeon. The child was brought to the medical clinic critically dehydrated from severe gastroenteritis. When routine attempts to rehydrate the boy failed, a successful surgical procedure was used to insert an IV tube and he was rushed to Apia. After two days in the hospital, he was released in good condition.
Speaking with a local woman at one of the PP09 closing ceremonies, I asked whether she considered our brief stay worthwhile. She responded sincerely, in words that echoed other Samoans’ expressions during the past ten days: “We are so happy to have you here, and we hope you will return very soon!”
This has been a very personal experience. Our band has played for kids with special needs and marched with the police band in the streets of Apia. Similarly, all of us have worked both for and with our Samoan counterparts. And it makes Samoans and Americans and our several partner nation participants a little wiser, a little more understanding, and even more appreciative of random acts of kindness and love.