Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Who We Are – Project HOPE
Dear Family & Friends,
Of the many partnerships we have fashioned over the course of this voyage, there is one partner who has been with us since the beginning. I’m speaking, of course, of the great folks at Project HOPE. These wonderful volunteers, from all walks of life, first joined Team Mercy during the 2005 Tsunami Relief effort. They also joined our sistership, USNS Comfort, during the relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina and participated in Mercy’s 2006 Humanitarian Assistance mission. Last year, more HOPE volunteers embarked on USS Peleliu for Pacific Partnership 07 and also for Comfort’s Humanitarian mission to Central America. Today, Project HOPE is still a major player in Pacific Partnership 08 and is remembered as the NGO who “opened-the-door” for all other organizations to participate on these missions.
Project HOPE - the acronym is for Health Opportunities for People Everywhere – was the brainchild of Doctor William B. Walsh. In 1958, Dr. Walsh persuaded President Eisenhower to donate a U.S. Navy hospital ship, the U.S.S. Consolation. The ship was transformed into the S.S. HOPE, and the organization known as Project HOPE was born. On September 22, 1960, the S.S. HOPE set sail from San Francisco bound for Indonesia. The S.S. HOPE was retired in 1974 after completing 11 voyages traveling to Indonesia, Vietnam, Peru, Ecuador, Guinea, Nicaragua, Colombia, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Tunisia, Jamaica, and Brazil. [Above cited from Project HOPE’s website] Project HOPE celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year!
Since it’s founding, the charter of Project HOPE has been to build the fundamentals for long-term sustainable health care in underserved regions around the world. This has dovetailed nicely with Pacific Partnership’s goals to “leave something behind” in the places we visit. During the Tsunami Relief effort of 05, Mercy provided much needed immediate health care in many of the inflicted regions. However, it was also apparent that much of the region’s health care infrastructure had been destroyed. A crash program was started to provide health education services and training to the health care providers who had survived. Today, this important work continues in what we call SMEE – or Subject Matter Expert Exchange. We have provided thousands of contact-hours worth of training and education to local health care workers. Project HOPE has been our partner in the effort to ensure a regions’ health care doesn’t vanish when Mercy weighs anchor.
Typical of the Project HOPE volunteers is my good friend Diane Speranza. Diane is an RN from New York who first served aboard Mercy during Tsunami Relief mission. She again joined Mercy for the 06 Humanitarian Mission as well as Comfort’s mission to South America last year…and now again for Mercy’s Pacific Partnership 08. It’s scary to think she has more time sailing aboard Hospital Ships then I do! In researching this post, I asked Diane why she continues to volunteer: “It puts my life into perspective” she stated. “And gives me something money can’t buy.”
I think Diane speaks for many of us aboard Mercy…why we enjoy doing what we do here. Diane is only one of the many wonderful Project HOPE volunteers working not only aboard Mercy, but in many places around the world. I “hope” this partnership continues for many years to come.
More to come…