Continuing Promise Colombia 2011: Committed to the Health and Wellbeing of the Colombian People
By Dialogo July 14, 2011
For the second time in its history, the Colombian city of Tumaco, in the department of Nariño, hosted the visit of the hospital ship Comfort, which arrived in Colombia at the invitation of the national government, the military, and the police, in support of their efforts to consolidate areas where significant progress is being made in maintaining peace and the wellbeing of the inhabitants.
On this occasion, the Comfort provided medical care to more than 5,000 inhabitants of Tumaco and nearby rural areas, more than 120 surgeries were successfully performed on board, two classrooms were built in the municipality of Chilvicito, veterinary care was offered, three schools were refurbished, and numerous exchanges of knowledge took place involving medical experts from the region.
The aim of the Continuing Promise mission in Colombia was to demonstrate the U.S. Southern Command’s commitment to Colombia and its National Consolidation Plan, which is leading to significant improvements in security, cooperation, the ongoing presence of the Colombian state, and improvement in Colombians’ quality of life.
Col. Mauricio Castro, commander of the 70th Marine River Battalion in Tumaco, explained, “As part of the joint work being done by the two countries, on the side of the Colombian military, we have two doctors from the National Navy seeing patients, Air Force engineers who are supporting the construction of the classrooms in Chilvicito, and of course, the National Army providing security for all the personnel and citizens who are participating in this mission.”
Continuing Promise 2011 (CP’11) made a significant impact on the community through cooperation and training, which promotes stability in the region. All the humanitarian aid provided was offered within the framework of the existing cooperation among the governments of the United States, Colombia, and other countries in the region, cooperation that takes shape in the form of a long-standing friendship with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Among the noteworthy achievements of Continuing Promise 2011 was the surgery performed on Irene Becerra, a 101-year-old patient who arrived at the Max Seídel School clinic complaining of severe headaches and the loss of vision in her left eye.
Following an examination, the CP’11 medical team determined that Irene was suffering from cataracts and scheduled her for surgery on 6 June. After a recovery of two hours, the oldest surgical patient in the history of the CP’11 team was ready to begin the process of recovering her sight. “I want to thank God, the medical team on board the Comfort, and all those who made this procedure possible,” the patient said.
Lt. Cmdr. Francine Worthington, in charge of patient administration on board the Comfort, felt honored to provide care to Becerra during “the surgery that changed her life.” “A smile is the beginning of love, and the labors of love are labors of peace,” Lieutenant Commander Worthington said. “Collaboration begins one person at a time. Mrs. Becerra represents the beauty of the Colombian people.”
The various events held during the ship’s visit — between 2 and 12 June — made it possible to integrate the community and bring it into closer contact with the efforts of the local and national government to improve the quality of life in the city.
In the same way, donations were made by several international NGOs and by the staff of the U.S. embassy in Colombia, which sent clothes and toys, among other items.
During his visit, Diego Molano, National Social Action Director for the Office of the President of the Republic, declared that “President Juan Manuel Santos designated him to accompany this action because Tumaco is a fundamental part of the Consolidation Plan and of the strategic choice to recover the Pacific and Tumaco for all Colombians.”
The U.S. embassy was represented by Minister-Counselor Perry Holloway, who affirmed that the event is “the best demonstration that in Colombia, people want to consolidate and work [jointly with] the United States.”
In addition to humanitarian aid, the Comfort’s visit represents a cultural exchange for all involved. During his time in Colombia, the mission commander, U.S. Navy Capt. Brian C. Nickerson, declared, “we believe that understanding the culture is a prerequisite for building relationships and providing appropriate care.”
Congratulations (Mao) Colonel Mauricio Castro, I send you a bear hug from USA. I know him since I was a child. He is an excellent human being. God continue blessing you all the days of your life.