DILI, Timor Leste
– Project Handclasp, a U.S. Navy-sponsored humanitarian aid program, provided more than four tons of supplies for Timor-Leste June 22.
Project Handclasp has been accepting and transporting educational, humanitarian and goodwill material overseas on Navy ships since it was founded in 1962. It's a public-private partnership with corporations, public service organizations, non governmental organizations (NGOs), and individuals throughout the United States. Anyone can donate to Project Handclasp, and their donations are then delivered worldwide to schools, orphanages and clinics.
“Project Handclasp has supported Pacific Partnership by providing a variety of community support materials in each country,” said Lt. Phillip Ridley. “However, that is just the tip of the iceberg. The items delivered to these people demonstrate there are people in the U.S. who genuinely care about them.”
Pacific Partnership is an annual humanitarian assistance initiative sponsored by the U.S. Pacific Fleet, aimed at improving interoperability between host and partner nations. Project Handclasp has supported the Pacific Fleet initiative since the first mission in 2006.
“Project Handclasp's role in the Pacific Partnership mission has been vital to providing host countries with the supplies they need,” said Ridley. “It also adds a dimension of personal care from the U.S. when people receive the toys, textbooks, clothing, school supplies, water filtration systems, air pumps, sports balls, wheelchairs and medical supplies to people in need here in the South Pacific.”
Volunteers aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Cleveland (LPD 7), which is the flagship for Pacific Partnership 2011, bring Project Handclasp supplies from ship to shore and help put them together for host countries.
“Project Handclasp not only ensures that people in the most need receive the aid, but also that service members involved gain a personal appreciation for the challenges and ways of life of other nations,” said Religious Programs Specialist 2nd Class Richard Figueroa.
For example, Flight Lieutenant Andrew Bonnitcha of the Royal Australian Air Force and Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Leuze of the U.S. Army Reserve were able to secure a wheelchair from available Project Handclasp supplies for a man who lost both of his feet to Type 2 diabetes and was using a lawn chair bolted to a wheelchair frame to get around.
Project Handclasp has provided 60 pallets of supplies for the Pacific Partnership host nations, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea, and now Timor-Leste. Project Handclasp is scheduled to bring 14 pallets of supplies to the Federated States of Micronesia, which is the last scheduled stop for Pacific Partnership 2011.
For more news from Pacific Partnership, visit: