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KBI/Tzu Mission to Afghanistan and Cambodia

With Coordination provided by the AFPC - Asia Pacific Initiative

August 20-22, 2002
Basilan Island, Philippines

August 20, 2002: Trip to Zamboanga

Ed, Walt, Adrian, Al Santoli, and Don Bridgers all took the 6:30 flight from Manila to Zamboanga this morning. With us, as excess baggage, we took the medicines that make up the first 5 (of 40) Medcaps that we had recently purchased, and which has been delivered to Manila.

Once we got checked into a hotel we proceeded to deliver the medicine for the 5 medcaps to the Special Forces conducting the Medcaps, at the Command Center in Zamboanga. After we arrived at the command center and a briefing to explain what we had brought with us, the crew unloaded the medicines and immediately began inventorying it to repackage for forwarding to Basilan tomorrow with us.

The crew was obviously pleased to have received these medicines. It seemed as though they really were not quite sure what they were getting until they actually saw it -- as if they had been promised supplies and medicines before, only to be disappointed in what they received. But there was no disappointment here. We gave them a packing slip of the medicines, which they used to check the delivery, affirming that everything was there. The medicines were loaded in plastic tub type boxes for carrying in the boats to the island. Each MedCAP worth of medicines took three large plastic tubs. These medicines were to be put to use tomorrow.

We received a briefing on what was expected of us in the movement to, and our stay on, Basilan. No NGO's have been a guest of the Special Forces on Basilan, and we are honored to be given this privilege.

Once we had our instructions for tomorrow's movement, we left the base and proceeded to the orphanage that we had visited on our trip in June. We wanted to see the progress of the upgrades and made additional contributions to their efforts there.

At the orphanage, we were shown all of the work that had been put into place since our last visit. With the help of Don Bridgers and his wife Karika, several remodeling changes were initiated that would assist in the comfort and sanitation of the children, and make better use of the available space. Renovations were also being started to upgrade the living quarters for the staff. These upgrades included sealing the walls of the small residence building to keep mosquitos out, and installing ceilings and ceiling fans to keep some of the heat out.

After seeing the improvements being made to the orphanage, and after being briefed on the needs of the facility, two separate donations were made. First, Al Santoli made a donation of $500 toward the continuation of these efforts. Then, Knightsbridge International contributed another $2,500 to this work.

After the financial contributions we donated a set of medicine that is particularly useful for the orphans. This included among other things, deworming medicine, multivitamins, and antibacterial creams.

We then went to the hotel to get a good night's rest in preparation for our trip to Basilan.

August 21, 2002 - Travel to Basilan Island:

Before leaving the hotel, we had a meeting with the Tzu Chi director for Zamboanga, Dr. Anton Lin. He updated us on all of the efforts Tzu Chi had participated in since our last visit, and what is planned for the future. After our bringing Tzu Chi and the Special Forces together in June, they have already performed one large MedCAP in a village about an hour outside of Zamboanga where they served over 1,400 people. There has been little medical work done in this area in years as a result of the terror inflicted by the Abu Sayyaf. If it had not been for the joint efforts of the military and Tzu Chi, this MedCAP could not have taken place. The Special Forces established perimeter security before and during the services and assisted in the physical setting up of the area. They also contributed many of the medical personnel. So, the doctors treating the patients were a joint team of Tzu Chi and the Special Forces.

The next MedCAP in the Zamboanga area with Tzu Chi is scheduled for this coming Sunday.

Tzu Chi has several eye surgeons, and they are in the process of identifying needed eye surgeries. These surgeries were be performed at some time in the near future with Tzu Chi doctors, when a full complement of patients is identified.

After the meeting with Tzu Chi, we went to the Southern Command base, where we prepared for the trip to Basilan. After a briefing regarding the trip, we went to the docs and loaded ourselves and medicines for three medcaps into a small Navy SEAL type boat, and headed out for Basilan. The boat was fast, and we were there in not much more than a half hour. (When we took the "fast ferry" in June, the same trip took well over an hour.)

Once on the island we were escorted to the Special Forces' Forward Operations Base where we met with the commander there. We were given a briefing on the layout of the island and what would take place in the movements tomorrow.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in several informal meetings with various participants in the Medcaps discussing how the medcaps have been going, with Ed offering his advice on managing these events from his experiences in Viet Nam.

August 22, 2002: Presentation of Medicines to Lamitan Hospital, and Participation in MedCAP in Baas:

Our first event today was to make a formal presentation of medicines to support Medcaps, at the Lamitan Hospital. Lamitan is the city where, last year, one of the more highly publicized hostage-taking events took place. It was in this town that the Abu Sayyaf had holed up in the hospital (a different hospital) and had found themselves under siege with the Philippine Army. They "escaped" under some highly suspect conditions, simply walking out the back door. It was only weeks ago that this crisis came to an end when the Philippine Army staged a rescue attempt, rescuing one of the hostages and losing the others.

This was one of the first presentations of its kind on the island, showing a humanitarian presentation of medicine to the hospital, presented by both the armed forces and an NGO- Knightsbridge. General Wurster, the Commanding General of the Joint Forces flew in this morning to participate in this event, as did General Carolina of the Philippine Army

Our convoy left for Lamitan at 6:30 a.m. for about a 45 minute drive. The General's Helicopter arrived at 8:30, and the presentation started promptly at 9:00.

During the presentation, speeches were delivered by Ed Artis, as well as Generals Wurster and General Carolina.

After the presentation, we formed another convoy for the half hour ride to Baas. Baas has historically been another stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf and the Joint Forces were in the middle of conducting their first MedCAP in this area. We went to witness this MedCAP and meet with the doctors who were running it.

We spent several hours amongst the patients and doctors in this MedCAP until it was time to return by boat to Zamboanga. In mid-afternoon, we boarded the same type of wooden boat from a dock in Lamitan headed for the dock in Zamboanga.

This work on Basilan was an appropriate end to our mission. In June we started out in the Philippines, and were asked if there was any way we could help procure medicines for these medcaps taken on as part of the humanitarian efforts to "wage peace" in this area, with the Joint Forces. There was not a lot of expectation that Knightsbridge would actually be able to find a way to fund the purchase of enough medicine for 40 medcaps or 20,000 patients, but we were asked anyway. Fortunately, with everyone wanting to be able to say yes, and with the support of our friends in Washington and most importantly our supplier, Knightsbridge was able to secure a USAID grant in time to purchase these medicines (nearly $800,000 in retail value) and have them air freighted just in time to support this peace effort.

It is fitting that we were able to return to the Philippines just as these medicines were arriving, especially after having spent the month of July delivering 9 - 10 ton trucks of aid supplies to families all through Afghanistan.

Not only is this "full circle" for our mission this time, but also represents a "full circle" for Ed Artis. He got started in "this good guy work" 30-some years ago in Viet Nam, doing Medcaps. The system for performing Medcaps was not as formal then, but it was the experiences and ideas were in practice with Ed in Viet Nam that have grown into what we were able to participate in this trip. This represents the first time an NGO has participated in a military MedCAP, and it has demonstrated that is the right thing to do and the right time to do it.

Photos included with this update include:

  • 4503: Special Forces Inventorying Medicine at Southern Command
  • 4517: Al Santoli presenting donation to Orphanage
  • 4537: SF briefing at Basilan Island
  • 4573: Generals Wurster and Carolina, and Ed Artis at Lamitan Hospital
  • 4592: Ed presenting Medicines at Lamitan Hospital
  • 4634: Ed reviewing Medcaps with SF guys at Baas MedCAP
  • 4656: Leaving Basilan Island

This ends the current mission to Afghanistan and the Philippines which started in mid June. Ed and Al are taking one more day to visit Jolo Island - a smaller island further south of Basilan. Like Basilan, it has been a haven for the Abu Sayyaf and its residents have been in need of humanitarian assistance for some time. Ed and Al are spending the day in some planned leaders of various groups on the island in exploratory sessions in partly to see where Knightsbridge may be able to help here.

This concept of a humanitarian group working together with the US Military has many exciting possibilities. Historically, humanitarian groups have avoided working with or around military groups, and vice versa. This may just be another form of discrimination based on lack of good information and experience. The causes of suffering in the world can not be solved by military might alone. And they can not be solved by humanitarian efforts alone. Combining the talents of both organizations, particularly in areas where suffering is a result of oppressive regimes, can go a long way towards working.

We truly want to thank everyone for your interest in our work, and welcome you to contact us with any questions or thoughts you might have regarding this trip.

Heading home,

Walt Ratterman, with Ed Artis, Al Santoli, and Adrian Belic
Knightsbridge International
Basilan Island, Philippines
August 22, 2002
www.kbi.org

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