HOPE works in more than 35 countries worldwide. Please enjoy our blog as we document the successes and challenges of our work to provide Health Opportunities for People Everywhere.
Labels: Africa , China, Dominican Republic, Europe and Eurasia, Macedonia, Namibia, Poland, Sierra Leone, South Africa , Global Health Expertise, Chronic Disease, Women’s and Children’s Health, Alumni, Infectious Disease, Health Systems Strengthening
In my first 12 months as HOPE’s new President and CEO, I’ve been privileged to visit colleagues in 13 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and seen for myself how our programs and professionals are doing vital work in building health capacity that is directly helping patients, doctors and nurses, and others.
In China, a nurse educator praised the volunteer HOPE nurse educator who had transformed her life by equipping her with skills and knowledge to become a more effective and dedicated educator and an example for others to follow. Now she leads a large nursing department in a Beijing hospital – passing on the skills we empowered her to develop for a new generation of Chinese nurses.
At the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center and the University Children’s Hospital in Krakow, which HOPE helped to establish decades ago, I met families whose children are thriving thanks to the expertise and state-of-the-art medical technology on hand to treat a young patient’s special needs and support the family as well.
Post-Ebola Sierra Leone has faced enormous challenges since it suffered from the world’s largest and deadliest outbreaks of the Ebola virus, which claimed the lives of thousands. Project HOPE donated medicines and supplies and the Ministry of Health asked us to stay on in the fight to restore the health care system. We are helping to tackle horrific levels of maternal, newborn, and child mortality, most of which is entirely preventable.
In Namibia, a nurse in an AIDS clinic told me how helpful the Project HOPE field workers had been in tracking down treatment defaulters, thereby preventing drug resistance and transmission to others.
In the Dominican Republic, I spent more than an hour in deep discussions with the Minister of Health, a fellow pediatrician, discussing issues affecting children, especially the Zika virus epidemic and the country’s very high levels of neonatal mortality.
And thanks to the commitment of our many private sector corporate partners, Project HOPE is in close partnership with the governments of China and South Africa to establish appropriate local models of care for diabetes and hypertension. One patient told me how much better he attends follow-up appointments ever since the HOPE Centre in South Africa established an appointment system – a simple step to overcome an important bottleneck.
And in Macedonia, I saw how the Project HOPE team has effectively integrated our support with the Ministry of Health as a true partner to bring much needed health services to thousands of refugees as they cross parts of Europe, fleeing war, poverty, and hopelessness.
In addition to disease-specific programs, I continue to be reminded how crucial it is to invest in the human capital that is needed to drive the delivery of health services and these priority programs. If you ask local health leaders, they will say organizations like Project HOPE should focus on building their local capacity. I couldn’t agree more.
HOPE is fortunate to have a diverse portfolio of programs that it can be proud of, including Health Affairs, the leading journal on health policy to help drive sound decision-making for better health outcomes in the US and around the world. Through partnerships, we will continue to pursue innovative service models that are designed to overcome the many bottlenecks that impede access to health care. And we will continue to pursue opportunities to build capacity of the health workforce to address local health challenges in a sustainable fashion.
Project HOPE has a unique and strong tradition in developing the health workforce, going back to the pioneering days with the SS HOPE, the first ever peacetime hospital ship whose mission was to treat, train, and learn. Moving forward, HOPE is determined to build on this unique legacy of trusting relationships and making a difference through service to others. I’m excited for HOPE’S future.
It’s a future focused on boosting our impact, focusing our efforts, partnerships, and ensuring accountability for results.
It’s a future exemplified in the example of a single Chinese nurse who years ago had an encounter with Project HOPE, and has been changing lives ever since.
Samantha Mangovski is from New York, but has Macedonian roots. She was part of an internship program for Macedonian diaspora with partner organization Macedonia 2025. She shares her Project HOPE experiences here.
During my day spent with the Project HOPE volunteers in Tabanovce, Macedonia, I learned that they provide more than just medical care.
On the morning of Aug. 9, 2016, I was preparing myself for a day spent in a transit center observing medical staff receiving and caring for displaced refugees from Syria. What I found was a lot more.
The first face I saw that day was of Aleksandar Jordanovski, a Project HOPE volunteer, as he beckoned me to the vehicle we would share. On our 45 minute drive from the heart of Skopje to the Tabanovce Transit Center near Kumonovo, I waited in the car as he made a stop around 8:30 in the morning.
As he opened the door to get back in the vehicle I noticed he carried what appeared to be a whole cooked chicken. As I joked with him about being overzealous for lunch, he revealed to me that actually the food item was not for him, but for one of the refugees. He then divulged a story of a man he had befriended who arrived at the camp after four days and nights of walking. The man had been separated from his wife who was prayerfully awaiting his arrival in Germany. This man also had four children whose whereabouts Aleksandar did not know.
Aleksandar stated this man had walked straight through Greece without stopping or resting for four days and nights consecutively. When he arrived at the center his feet were largely swollen. He was hungry and exhausted. Within the days to come, Aleksandar took the man into the city to see an ophthalmologist as the man needed glasses. He also makes a point to bring him his favorite foods from outside the transit center. Sometimes something as simple as a familiar meal is enough to provide a hint of normalcy when everything around you is unfamiliar.
As I was walking back to the ambulance I saw a male refugee exit the small facility. I politely asked if everything was alright when Angela Trposka, the resident doctor in the Tabanovce Transit Center, stated the gentleman suffered from depression and wanted to talk. I realized in that moment that when a crisis of this scale occurs the attention is naturally placed on treating physical health ailments first. I personally had forgotten the victims would require emotional support as well. But not Angela. In addition to her constant presence there to provide medical attention to the refugees, she also takes time out of her day to sit privately with individuals about emotional issues, depression and grief concerning the abrupt life change they experienced.
Throughout my day I witnessed acts of kindness that were not required of the volunteers, but given freely. For the refugees who have traveled far and wide on foot, with and without shoes, in the rain, and heat, who have gone weeks without a hot bath or decent meal, Project HOPE volunteers give more than just medical care. They offer pieces of humanity.
More than a week after Macedonia’s capital city Skopje was hit by torrential rains that killed at least 22 and injured many, part of the city and its neighbouring districts still remain under a state of emergency.
On Saturday, Aug. 6, 3.5 inches (93 mm) of rain fell in Skopje within five hours and water levels went up to five feet (1.5 meters) in the most affected areas.
A group of Project HOPE employees and local volunteers from HOPE’s Macedonian office quickly pitched in to help by cleaning out flooded houses and delivering much needed medicine, sanitary products and cleaning items to the victims.
The flood swept away part of Skopje’s Ring Road, carrying away people in their cars. Houses were flooded and partly devastated, particularly in the Northern suburbs of the Macedonian capital, leaving many without electricity for days.
"Everything was a mess,” said Baze Spriovski, a 43-year-old resident of Singelic in the outskirts of Skopje. “Televisions, the fridge, the sofa, everything was floating ... it was a nightmare."
Many people also lost livestock in the floods. Small agricultural farmers will likely not be able to produce any products for the next few years for reasons of soil contamination.
Special police forces, the military and KFOR forces have been present in the most affected areas in order to help and coordinate the delivery of drinking water and the cleaning of scattered debris from streets and gardens.
"This is a disaster; we have never experienced such a thing," said Skopje's Mayor Koce Trajanovski.
Today, 10 days after the catastrophe, the situation in the most affected areas is bit more stable, but the need for manpower, drinking water, supplies and medication is still urgent. Project HOPE is planning more visits to provide help, clothing and medication. Medical supplies available in the U.S. warehouse will be sent by air.
Experts are anticipating that the consequences will be most visible in the next three months when epidemics of communicable diseases may spread.
I grew up in an Air Force community and was gratefully mentored towards my goal to be a nurse by an Air Force nurse. Talks of relocation and life in “foreign countries” were shared by childhood friends. I too wanted to travel, learn first-hand about lands, people, their cultures and their ways of living. Due to my role as a full time University-based nursing educator from 1974 to 2001, along with raising children, travel out of the Continental United States wasn’t possible. In 2001 I made a career move from the University to community-based specialty practice in developmental/behavioral pediatrics. While I love this specialty practice and the patients and families we serve, I am not involved in general pediatric healthcare. But, in this practice, I can arrange time off. Through a family member I became aware of Project HOPE’s varied volunteer and humanitarianism opportunities - many collaborating with U.S. Military and other NGO groups. The missions presented on the website were rich with opportunity to renew my basic skills, travel to unique (and real) – less visited places. To places I would be challenged to give care to children, perhaps more in need than those near home.
My best memory was my first mission, Pacific Angel 2011 staged several miles outside Pekanbaru, Sumatra, Indonesia. HOPE warned there might not be sufficient need for a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – which made me smile then and now. The primary mission was to see how rapidly the Air Force could set up a “Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief” unit - a pallet-bound tent clinic and city ready to travel and be functional, within a day. The clinic opened to over 800 patients the first day. Adults brought their children along as they were full time caregivers. As families learned their children could be seen, the volume increased by the hour, then over the days. Pediatrics became so busy the Family Practice MDs began seeing as many children as adults.
Each year since 2011, I have felt honored when accepted to a new mission. 2012 was Pacific Partnership aboard the USNS Mercy. I boarded in Manado, Indonesia to travel the Philippine Islands including Samar and Cebu. Living as do our Navy personnel opened my eyes to their discipline in service. When not at an Islands’ clinic examining, treating, and learning of that community’s ways of living, I volunteered aboard ship. I loved working the Mess line. There I had the chance to thank our Service persons for their dedication at home and abroad. It was exciting “manning the rails” as the Mercy steamed in to Subic Bay, Manila. 2013 was aboard the USS Pearl Harbor. I joined this multinational military and NGO mission in New Caledonia and traveled to Manado, a highly populated Marshall Island. In 2014 Typhoon Haiyan destroyed many Philippines lands. HOPE sent emergency responders to Tapaz Island. In September I examined children in the local hospital, met with community and military leaders of Tapaz to review the Island’s recovery and ongoing needs. Once again in 2015 I worked with Navy providers, this time aboard the USNS Comfort anchored outside Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I saw so many with so little resources since the 2010 earthquake. June 2016 was PacAngel in Kampot, Cambodia, a multinational, East-West sharing of health care information and hands-on care.
I am asked, “What is humanitarianism?” I am repeatedly humbled by families who wait in long lines in hot and humid weather for me to examine their children. Their thanks and signs of appreciation are my enduring gift. Seeing the resilience of children and compassion of their elders resets my moral and emotional compass and grounds me. How fortunate I am to be in this nursing profession I love. Earning the chance to share knowledge among national and international peers affirms my worth. Upon my return I want to kneel and kiss home ground with thanks for my opportunity to give of my skills and my time. Many parents, co-workers and friends want to hear of my adventures. I feel through telling my stories they gain empathy for others and may find a place or organization where they too can give in their special ways. Coming home, I am often physically exhausted, but days later I start thinking about my next opportunity.
J. Beryl Brooks, the Developmental Clinic Coordinator for Improved Pregnancy Outcome at Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, Georgia, is a medical volunteer with Project HOPE.
The 9/11 terror attacks in the United States broke our nation’s heart and shocked us to the core, but for me, the shock gave way to a sense of determination to serve as a volunteer for a medical humanitarian organization. With Project HOPE, I felt inspired to make a difference. If I could in some way help save a life, educate a nurse or inspire health professionals to build healthier communities, I was determined to do it.
My first mission with HOPE was a three-week assignment at ASRAM, a regional teaching hospital in Eluru, India where I helped enhance the skills of staff nurses. My second mission was a two-week assignment on USNS Mercy, the U.S. Navy hospital ship where Project HOPE often provides medical volunteers, working as a staff nurse on the pediatric pre- and post-operative unit while it was anchored off shore near Roxas City, Philippines.
In May of this year, I was in Bo District, Sierra Leone doing assessments of the district hospital and rural primary health clinics. The HOPE team taught two American Academy of Pediatrics Programs called Helping Babies Breathe and Essential Care for Every Baby. I was honored to work alongside other team members including Dr. George Little, a Neonatologist from Dartmouth Medical Center in New Hampshire, Dr. Jacqueline Osibey, a pediatrician from Ghana, and Mariam Sow, our program coordinator.
Sierra Leone is in great need of humanitarians, especially in health care as it has one of the highest rates of maternal and newborn mortality in the world. The country is still recovering from the devastating Ebola epidemic, which had a terrible impact on the country. Progress had been made in reducing maternal and newborn mortality by providing free access to maternal health services until Ebola struck and crippled the health system. The epidemic caused a severe shortage of health workers and a lack of adequate supplies. This meant that thousands of women had only limited access to maternal health services. The use of child soldiers in the country’s decade-long civil war was another painful memory for the health professionals I met. These nurses and health experts are my heroes. They persevered during conflicts and global health emergencies, coping with a lack of resources or paychecks at times. They are true humanitarians.
Prior to volunteering with Project HOPE, I served for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal as a health educator. I also did a two-week assignment with a group from Alabama providing health services in two rural health clinics in Honduras.
My best memories as a humanitarian so far have been seeing the excitement and confidence in the eyes of staff in Nepal and Sierra Leone when they reported their successes in resuscitating newborns using the skills they learned from the programs that I helped to present.
To me being a humanitarian means trying to understand others and their needs and caring enough to be motivated to do something positive to make their lives better. There is always a need for help and medical expertise in underserved communities, and I have skills to share. I have been very fortunate in my life and do not take that for granted. So I’m just passing it on.
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