About the Author: Tom Weinz serves as the dedicated Foreign Service Liaison Officer for Pacific Partnership 2010.
Earlier this week, Pacific Partnership 2010 was in Ambon City, Ambon Island, in the Banda Sea, which is west of the island of New Guinea. It was both the culmination of our three-area cooperative mission in Indonesia and participation in something different from any previous Pacific Partnership mission. The Government of Indonesia was hosting a number of events under the umbrella of Sail Banda 2010 with the goal of bringing together numerous nations to strengthen relationships and build cooperation and mutual understanding. The events also aimed to promote the future of small islands, with a focus on ecology, conservation and environmental awareness.
In addition to PP10's regularly-scheduled disaster relief exercises, which are continuing in this area, we've been adding participation in conferences, celebrations and environmental projects to our schedule. As would happen if there were a real emergency/disaster situation, we have recently joined forces with several other ships here in Ambon, including the Indonesian Kri Dr Suharso hospital ship and the RSS Endeavor from Singapore, which carries two landing craft and a full complement of Singaporean medical personnel.
On July 30, a group of 25 PP10 volunteers joined more than 100 Indonesian high school students and other local volunteers to plant hundreds of mangrove trees on a stretch of beach near the school. These mangrove plantings will replace trees that have been damaged or destroyed, and will help mitigate beach erosion and increase fish and sea life near these islands.
Besides having a very positive effect on the local environment, our daily community service projects offer all of us a chance to interact and understand more about each other. The high school students were studying English, and they easily overcame their initial shyness to find out more about us and why we were planting trees with them and offering medical services in their province. When we finished the planting, we were invited into the school to hear the students practice their singing and dancing for an August 2 performance, the date when their president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was scheduled to visit Ambon. President Yudhoyono is participating in Sail Banda to emphasize the importance of both the environmental and social themes. Though this is a Christian high school, Muslim children were part of the mangrove planting and the presentation for the president -- a clear message on tolerance and the virtues of working together. Even with everything that it's added to our itinerary, the decision to participate in Sail Banda seems a solid one, and has allowed us to meet and work with hundreds of people from Indonesia and beyond.
You can trace the Mercy's journey from its initial announcement to preparations for launch, setting sail, arrival in Vietnam, work in Vietnam, farewell to Vietnam, arrival in Cambodia, community outreach in Cambodia, celebrating U.S. Independence Day in Singapore, return to Indonesia, and work in Indonesia.