In the world of global development, Project Hope honors the legacy of the U.S. Navy and its service during World War II. Impassioned and committed to serving others, Dr. William Walsh returned to the U.S. from the South Pacific. Across the region, countless children died too young from preventable diseases. He then envisioned a “floating medical center” to provide health education and advanced care. In 1958, it became a reality.

Dr. Walsh directly lobbied U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, persuading him to donate a U.S. Navy ship. As a hospital ship, the USS Consolation developed to serve the most at-risk countries. For two years, these partnerships “refitted and equipped” the ship it became the SS Hope. With $150, Dr. Walsh and the Navy converted this war-time ship into a peace-time ship. Individuals and corporations partnered to improve the care offered to those in need.

The Navy recruited doctors, nurses, and technologists throughout the country. For every U.S. citizen on-board, he or she had a counterpart in the country served. This counterpart received the necessary training, sustaining U.S. efforts to reduce the burden of disease.

On September 22, 1960 the SS Hope began its initial journey from San Francisco to Indonesia. The ship provided training and direct treatment to the following countries: Vietnam, Ecuador, Peru, Nicaragua, Indonesia, Columbia, Brazil, Jamaica, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Guinea, and Tunisia. Fourteen years and eleven voyages, and the its spirit endures today through the work of Project Hope.

The ship retired in 1974, but Project Hope continues to honor its partnership with the U.S. Navy. Medical volunteers from the Navy provide land-based support, learning from the testimonies of HOPE alumni.

Project Hope advances the health care in developing regions by offering “training, technical assistance, and expert mentoring.” To build the capacity of local healthcare systems, this program must partner with local governments and private corporations. This ensures sustainable improvement, as opposed to immediate relief. Currently, the program aligns with traditional “train the trainer model.”

In times of crisis, its mission to enact lasting change persists. Those serving the region care for those in immediate need but instruct locals throughout the process and restores health facilities.

In addition to promoting health training, this program rehabilitate health facilities. Donations allow Project Hope to improve the distribution of medication and vaccines. Every year, it ships commodities worth 200 million dollars. The U.S. State Department serves as one of the largest donors, and Project Hope ensures this funding arrives safely to the necessary site.

Charity Navigator rates it 67 out of 70 in transparency and accountability. 95.1 percent of its total expenses directly fund services in developing regions, with an estimated three percent contributing to fundraising and two percent to administrative costs. This low overhead cost indicates a commitment to the service.

The SS Hope voyaged the world and today, its destination remains in the hands of those it served. Rather than passively providing resources, it empowers local men and women to steer the program.

– Ellery Spahr

Sources: Project Hope, Charity Navigator
Photo: Wikimedia