Between June 19 and October 8, the U.S. Navy hospital ship Comfort, will embark on a health education mission to the Caribbean and Central and South America, visiting coastal communities in Belize, Guatemala, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Haiti, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana and Surinam. Project HOPE will send 88 volunteers on this mission, in four rotations, each lasting approximately 23 days, to help treat an expected 85,000 patients - including 55,000 children.
Between July 10 and September 14, the USS Peleliu will visit Southeast Asia including coastal communities in Vietnam (where the SS HOPE sailed during the second half of its maiden voyage in 1960), Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands. HOPE will send 63 volunteers on this mission, serving in three rotations, each lasting up to 19 days.
Along with the volunteer support, Project HOPE is seeking to provide an estimated $6 million worth of donated medicines (including vaccines, antibiotics and basic supplies) in support of each operation.
The humanitarian voyages with the U.S. Navy will be similar in scope to the two previous joint missions - the 2005 Tsunami Response, which provided direct medical support on the ship and ashore to the victims of the December 2004 tsunami and the 2006 Mission of HOPE and Mercy which revisited the area to provide medical help and expertise to those still suffering from the effects of the tsunami.
Dr. Nick Morris, a surgeon, and his wife, Madelyn, a certified registered nurse specializing in surgery assistance, volunteered on the 2006 Mission of HOPE and Mercy. Dr. Morris described their seven week tour to Indonesia and East Timor in July, August and early September of 2006 as life changing.
"It was really like I was closing the loop on my childhood ambitions for becoming a doctor," Dr. Morris said. "I felt like this was something I had been looking for all my life and God said, 'Here, this is my gift to you."'
On the two new missions, Project HOPE medical volunteers, recruited from among some of the leading U.S. medical and educational institutions, will again be working alongside Navy medical personnel and other medical partners to provide direct outpatient care to indigenous populations both on board the ships and on land.
This unique public-private partnership distinctly recalls the days of the SS HOPE hospital ship, and represents a rebirth of the volunteer spirit on which Project HOPE was founded 49 years ago. During its 14 years of service, from 1960 to 1974, the SS HOPE, staffed by medical volunteers, made 11 voyages to countries around the world - including several of those scheduled for visits by the Comfort and Peleliu this year (Vietnam, Peru, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Colombia). When it was retired, the SS HOPE had become a symbol of American goodwill and compassion.