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Volunteers sought for U.S. Navy humanitarian mission to South America

August 29, 2018

By David Burger

The University of California San Diego Pre-Dental Society is seeking volunteers for a U.S. Navy-led humanitarian mission to South America in the midst of the Venezuelan refugee crisis.

A recommissioned hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, was set to deploy Sept. 26 until Hurricane Florence caused the ship to delay its trip for several weeks. The ship will go through the Panama Canal twice and is expected to return in December.

"It is a great honor that the Navy has selected our civilian nongovernmental organization to help with this crisis," said Dr. Irvin B. Silverstein, UCSD Pre-Dental Society director. "We have a chance to make a difference and work with many partner nations to help alleviate suffering and save lives."

The UCSD Pre-Dental Society is looking for dentists, physicians, pharmacists, optometrists, nurses, dental hygienists, dental assistants, medical assistants, medical and dental lab technicians, pharmacy techs, physical therapists, biomedical repair technicians, sonographers, translators, educators, engineers and all other health-related professionals.

In the past, volunteers did not have to stay on for the entire mission. Preference will go to those who can volunteer for longer periods. Once aboard the ship, the Navy covers volunteer expenses, including food and lodging.

On Aug. 20 the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Navy contacted the University of California San Diego Pre-Dental Society about the mission.

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans are fleeing their country amid chronic shortages of food and medicines, according to the BBC. "The country's longstanding economic crisis has seen more than two million citizens leave since 2014, causing regional tensions as neighboring countries struggle to accommodate them," the BBC reported.

Interested volunteers should contact or as soon as possible to begin the volunteer credentialing process and receive updates about the mission.

To learn more about volunteering internationally or to find an international volunteer opportunity, visit the ADA Foundation's international volunteer website