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Sunday, 27 March 2011 16:25

Mission Outreach mobilizing to assist U.S. Navy’s Project Handclasp

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The Hospital Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis who are serving in Japan are safe, reports Brian Blasco, director of communications for the Hospital Sisters in Springfield. Now in the aftermath of the March 11 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami, Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach is positioned to help those in northeastern Japan left devastated by the disaster, he said.

Although the Japanese province of the Hospital Sisters has over 50 sisters in Japan and sponsors two hospitals there — St. Francis in Nagasaki and St. Mary in Himeji — they are not located near where the massive quake and tsunami hit. “We have spoken with the sisters and they are fine,” said Blasco.

“The sisters have told us that although they are not affected by the earthquake, employees and families of both hospitals are experiencing very difficult times because of the disaster,” he said. “It is quite a tragedy. We here in this area have nothing in our existence to compare this to.”

Within one week of the disastrous quake and tsunami, Mission Outreach was already in contact with the U.S. Navy’s Project Handclasp, regarding their involvement in the crisis, said Mary P. Mahlie, executive director of Mission Outreach. “They informed us that USS Mercy hospital ship was on its way to Japan where they would stand ready to help the people of Japan,” she said.

“After 103 countries offered their assistance, the United States was selected as one of the nations Japan would accept help from,” Mahlie said. “On March 17, Mission Outreach received a call from the offices of Project Handclasp in San Diego, informing us that they would once again need our assistance with supplies.

“Similar to the Haiti earthquake, the first supplies needed are for basic survival,” she said. “Just as before, the Navy has asked for the first few shipments to contain gauze, bandages, blankets and hygiene kits.”

Mission Outreach put the call out to its hospital and medical manufacturing partners for the gauze and bandages. Unfortunately, Mission Outreach’s hygiene kit inventory has been depleted because of the last shipment to Haiti when 11,000 kits were shipped to help fight the cholera outbreak.

The Springfield Mission Outreach headquarters and its Chicago Division are asking the public and private business communities to help get items needed to complete the Navy’s request. The Midwest Food Bank in Bloomington has offered have their trucks take donations to San Diego; however Mission Outreach needs financial assistance to cover the travel and gas expenses involved in getting the trucks to California, so supplies can be airlifted to the Navy’s ships.

“People can help the Navy and Mission Outreach by donating cash to purchase the items, donating bulk items for our volunteers to assemble or by assembling kits yourself (see sidebar) and delivering them to our facilities in both cities,” said Pamela Perlmutter, development and public relations manager for Mission Outreach.

“Interestingly enough, the Hospital Sisters left China and went to Japan in 1948 because of the devastating aftermath of the atomic bomb,” said Blasco. “Now we are helping them again.”