Posted By: John P. Howe, III, M.D. on October 22, 2012

Labels: , Volunteers

Dr. Howe talks to HOPE's dedicated alumni at the 2012 Alumni Reunion.

With Project HOPE's nautical beginning, it was only appropriate that its 2012 Alumni reunion took place on the shores of Lake Michigan, just this past weekend. Over 60 volunteers who served on the SS HOPE and, more recently on the USNS Mercy and Comfort, gathered in Chicago to celebrate their service to those in need in over 100 countries. They came from 25 states, Grenada and France, with the states of California, Illinois and Virginia most represented. 

It was a special moment, made so by Dottie Aeshiliman and Dr. Naomi Nakashima, who served on the SS HOPE's first voyage to Indonesia in 1960 -- and by Dr. Scott Leckman, Michele Okamoto, Diane Speranza and Ellen Silvius, who served on the USNS Mercy's first voyage to Indonesia in 2005. They, and their fellow Reunion attendees, have performed over 160 volunteer-years of service in both land and sea settings. 

Walter Montgomery, a senior member of the HOPE Board and the CEO of RLM Finsbury, a global communications firm based in New York City, was the Dinner Speaker. He shared a timely and thoughtful perspective on HOPE in the larger world of NGOs, with experience gained from his weeks in China (2010) and Africa (2012), visiting HOPE's people and programs. 

Stories abounded, as Dr. Nakashima recounted Dr. Bill Walsh's telling of the delay in docking of the SS HOPE in Indonesia in 1960, because the local leaders thought, at first, that the ship was coming to steal their cows. Faye Pyles described her days of HOPE leadership on the USNS Mercy, last summer, in the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia. 

The coming year will be an exciting one for the HOPE Alumni, as its new officers were elected: Dr. John Wilhelm (4 voyages of the SS HOPE) as President, Debbie Reister (5 land-based programs) as Vice President and Michele Okamoto (6 voyages of the USNS Mercy). They ended this alumni gathering in Chicago with a renewed commitment to expanding HOPE's mission (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) with even greater volunteer involvement -- now and in the future.

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