A partnership for community resurgence | Sunday Observer

A partnership for community resurgence

Mission members along with their Sri Lankan counterparts busy building the emergency room
Mission members along with their Sri Lankan counterparts busy building the emergency room

They build and they fight. The fatigue in their bodies, being subject to strain under the harsh rays of the sun, over 32 degrees Celcius, they hide with smiles on their faces. It is a busy site. The sound of drilling, cutting, polishing and fixing, fill the air. Two sift sand quietly, on a side. Some fix the roof. Others are busy securing the perimeter fence. More are engaged inside, making everything ready to be completed for the opening scheduled within the week.

An Emergency Care Unit is being constructed at the Primary Medical Care premises in Kappalthurai, Trincomalee.

Most of the builders are not Sri Lankan, though. They are part of a mission, of friendship and goodwill, sharing best practices and strengthening Sri Lanka’s capabilities in disaster preparedness. Three community development projects were completed by the members of the Pacific Partnership mission in Sri Lanka from April 25 to May 8. The Seabees, members of the Construction Battalion of the US Navy took the lead along with their counterparts from the Engineering and Electrical Branches of the Sri Lanka Navy, supported by members from other partner countries, and of the US Army and Air Force.

For Engineer Christina Milone, Officer in Charge of the Community Enhancement projects in Trincomalee, it was her second time in the country. The Californian resident visited Sri Lanka for the first time last September, on a pre-deployment project survey where she assessed 15 possible project sites. “We selected three for completion,” says Milone, pointing out that one of the main criteria for project selection was the impact on the community. The three projects selected will together benefit over 1,500 families in the district. Civilian life improvement had been one of the reasons she joined Seabees, after graduation, says Malone. Now, it has given her an opportunity to be part of a project that improves the quality of life of people, half-way across the globe through the Pacific Partnership mission.

Emergency Care Unit

Ramiah Sivakumar, a father of three from Kappalthurai welcomes the construction. An Emergency Care Unit at the premises will certainly make their lives better, he opines. “We have to travel 20 kilometers to get any kind of treatment. People have died on the way,” he explains. The Primary Medical Care unit provides the community with various treatment, including dental and laboratory facilities in the form of regular clinics. The Emergency Unit will provide for over 500 families in the immediate neighbourhood in Kappalthurai and residents of Muttunagar, Saradapura, Thambalagamuwa and Vilankulam in the periphery.

Carmen Lambaren, the Electrician in charge of the project is happy to mention that, of the seven job roles they perform in the project (Engineer, Utilities, Steel Worker, Equipment Operator, Engineering Aid, Construction Electrician, Construction Mechanic) women are deployed in five job roles. She is one of the five women in their 20 member team of Seabees where women work shoulder to shoulder with men.

She is happy and excited to be in Sri Lanka, says Lambaren “We are learning new techniques and methods of construction from your country, as well as sharing best practices from ours.” Pacific Partnership is a mission that facilitates sharing of knowledge and best practices across countries enhancing preparedness in facing natural and man-made disasters.

Measuring, stacking and bonding are some of the areas in which he learnt much from his counterparts in Sri Lanka, says Nick Light, Crew Leader of the Midwife Clinic Centre, Andankulam, Trincomalee. The Civil Engineering Unit of the Pacific Partnership mission renovated the clinic as part of their Community Enhancement Project. Mission members fenced the periphery of the premises, replaced doors, windows and the ceiling, partitioned rooms, built new toilets and painted the interior and exterior of the facility that provides services for 617 families in the vicinity. Working with their counterparts in Sri Lanka has been a “fantastic experience,” says Light who worked side by side carpenters, plumbers and electricians from the Sri Lanka Navy.

Midwife Clinic Centre

I.B.C.D. Kumara and B.A.C. Pushpakumara, two members of the SL Navy working at the site say. They were having a rewarding experience. The way people from the two countries work are “totally different.” While the experience helps Sri Lankans to estimate rather than measure; measurement plays a vital role in the constructions of Seabees and other members of the Pacific Partnership. Moreover, the exchange of cultures is an enjoyable experience, they said, as soft music on a record player and singing from crew members lightened the ‘hard working’ mood.

The 20 Seabees, were there supporting constructions since March 20, a few weeks before the Pacific Partnership mission stop in Trincomalee. They also renovated and reconstructed a 3 unit toilet facility in a pre-school in Trincomalee town.

Pacific Partnership is the largest multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific region, a collaboration between the United States and partner countries, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, France, Peru and Japan. Pacific Partnership 2018 is in the 13th year of its mission.

This year’s mission carried out in the hospital ship USNS Mercy, and expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Fall River, makes mission stops at 7 countries, namely, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Vietnam, Palau, Thailand and Yap. This is the 2nd consecutive year of the mission in Sri Lanka. USNS Fall River docked at the Hambantota Port in March 2017 for two weeks, as the 1st mission stop in the country.