Port Orchard woman volunteers to aid Iraq humanitarian efforts

Cate Hogg concedes she’s probably a bit crazy.

“Anyone voluntarily going to Iraq right now, they’ve got to be a bit insane,” Hogg said, who signed up to volunteer with the British charity Doctors Worldwide (DWW) and is waiting to find out when she can leave for Baghdad. “But I want to go. I want to help, and I need to see what’s happening for myself.”

Hogg said she sent out letters to at least 100 agencies offering her assistance, and got only two responses. The Red Cross told her she did not have the right skills, she said, but DWW thought her administrative experience would be perfect in setting up what the organization hopes will be a permanent clinic in Baghdad.

“I sent them my resume, and they wrote me back, saying, ‘Yeah, we need you,’ ” Hogg said. That resume — which she said was very “polished” as she’s been unemployed for the past year — includes many years of office and clerical work, along with training in the medical coding and procedure that Hogg will need for her work at Al Kindi Hospital.

She has been enjoying her time off, but Hogg, who remembers wanting to be a nurse when she was in first grade, is also anxious to start helping out.

“I supported my government during the war, so I feel I should support what has to be done afterward,” Hogg said. “This is the right time, I’m in the right place in my head, and I may never get the chance again.”

Hogg, who admits to being “50-plus,” said many factors make this the perfect time to spend at least six months away from her Port Orchard home, which she moved to 15 years ago to be closer to her parents. She won’t have a husband or job waiting for her return, and her children are grown, she said, with most of their children already in their teens.

“I’m not leaving any babies behind,” Hogg said, then pointed to her tiny black poodle, Annabelle. “Except for her, and she’ll stay with my parents. And I’ll have a harder time being without her than she’ll have being without me.”

Hogg said it’s still very dangerous inside Baghdad, and even getting to the city can be an adventure, so she expects it will be about a month before DWW will be ready to send her group in. Last week she was informed that a group of doctors trying to get into the city were shot at and some were wounded.

Hogg knows it’s quite possible she may get hurt — or killed — herself, but that won’t keep her from going.

“Danger is everywhere,” she said. “I could just as easily go up Mile Hill Drive in my car and get killed.”

Her father was in the Navy and her ex-husband in the Army, so Hogg said she has traveled the world and has learned to appreciate an adventure, whether it be in Mexico, Europe, or even in the United States.

And a big part of her desire to go to Iraq, she said, is to leave her comfort zone.

“I want to really learn how much we take things for granted here,” Hogg said. “We take our liberty, our health care and even clean water for granted. That’s not how much of the rest of the world lives.”

The only thing she isn’t prepared to live without, however, is toilet paper.

“That’s on the top of my list,” she said, laughing. “I’ve got four care packages already packed and ready for my mom to send to me, and each has at least four rolls of toilet paper.”

Other than toilet paper, Hogg said she is severely limiting the amount of stuff she will bring with her. Along with her digital camera, she is bringing one jacket, one pair of jeans, and four or five long dresses with long sleeves.

“I want to dress conservatively, so I don’t stick out like a sore thumb,” she said.

With her clothes laid out and her passport up to date, Hogg said there is only one major obstacle between her and Baghdad — money.

“I need at least $2,000 just to get there and back,” Hogg said, adding that once she gets there she will not receive any money for her work. DWW will only provide her a place to live and food, or what she calls “three hots and a cot.”

To raise money, Hogg said she has written to everyone she can think of, from local TV stations to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and even Oprah Winfrey.

“They all say they only give to organizations, not individuals,” Hogg said. “Some of them I haven’t heard from, so I’m hoping no news is good news.”

Hogg, who said her family is not in a position to help and she no longer has savings to pay for her trip, recently posted a request for donations on eBay. If she doesn’t get enough donations, she said, she might start posting some of her things for sale on the site, as well.

“I’m going,” Hogg said. “One way or another, I’m going to get there.”

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