South Georgians lead a journey of hope to South America - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South Georgians lead a journey of hope to South America

Program Director Bill Lane talks with Defense Cooperation Chief Col. Jerry Miller Program Director Bill Lane talks with Defense Cooperation Chief Col. Jerry Miller
American representatives deliver supplies to doctors at Hospital Maciel in Montevideo, Uruguay American representatives deliver supplies to doctors at Hospital Maciel in Montevideo, Uruguay
Workers at MCLB Albany collect, maintain, and ship tons humanitarian supplies around the world Workers at MCLB Albany collect, maintain, and ship tons humanitarian supplies around the world
A Uruguayan hospital can treat five more premature babies at a time because of the Albany shipment A Uruguayan hospital can treat five more premature babies at a time because of the Albany shipment

July 29, 2003

Montevideo, Uruguay- The journey began in June at a huge warehouse at Albany's Marine Corps Logistics Base. "Our job is to take excess military property and gather it up and disperse it," said Warehouse Specialist Kyle Steuer.

Albany workers collect used or surplus property from U.S. military facilities all over the world. "Anything that's excess to their needs, this is the means of turning it in," said Program Director Bill Lane.

Once it gets to Albany, it's checked, catalogued, labeled, and packed for shipment. "It could be anything from hypodermic needles, bandages, gauze. We have hospital beds," said Lane.

If a country requests urgent help after a natural disaster, workers can sometimes have supplies ready to head out the door in a matter of minutes. "We can move it very quickly out to the countries that are in need of it," said Steuer. More often, workers spend months getting together shipments to fill specific needs at schools or hospitals. "We can't give them everything they need, but we can probably make things a little easier for them," said Lane.

The Albany warehouse serves the Defense Department's Southern and Central Commands, covering countries in Central and South America, the Middle East, and Africa. Eighteen countries, including Afghanistan and Iraq have gotten supplies from south Georgia in the last year. "The biggest joys of our job is knowing that we're touching lives around the world," said Steuer.

Last month, workers loaded six 40-foot containers with medical supplies heading to hospitals in Uruguay. "These are all things they actually have a need for," said Lane. Trucks moved the supplies from south Georgia to South Carolina where they were loaded on a ship at the port of Charleston. Then it was a five thousand mile trip to South America. Several weeks later, they arrived Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. Doctors here couldn't be happier. "Yes, it is a special day," said Hospital Maciel Director Dr. Luis Castillo as he welcomed a shipment of supplies to his hospital.

An economic crisis has led to a desperate shortage of hospital supplies and equipment in Uruguay. Hospital Maciel is one of five hospitals receiving supplies in this shipment. It's the largest maternity and children's hospital in Uruguay. They have plenty of well-trained doctors. They have high-tech equipment. They simply don't have enough.

Doctors deliver an average of 26 babies a day there. The neo-natal intensive care unit is often full. Incubators and respirators in the shipment will allow the unit to handle five more babies. "We have patients waiting for this kind of thing and so we are very excited and very grateful for all the people who made this happen," said Dr. Castillo.

The American workers were excited about the delivery, too. "This is the top of the rock for us. It's been great," said Lane. Now they can go back home to that big warehouse and begin work on a new project. "It's a job that you can come home and be proud of. You're happy to wake up in the morning and come to work, and when you leave you know you've accomplished something." Now, they can pack up another round of supplies for the next journey of hope. '

posted at 12:20AM by brannon.stewart@walb.com

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