On September 22, 1960, the SS HOPE made its inaugural voyage to Ambon Island in Indonesia. The vessel and the volunteers aboard made a year-long voyage which also stopped by Vietnam. A three-year-old girl named Harati had not been able to take her first steps in Ambon until Project HOPE found a berth in the island's harbor. Disabled by a polio-like disease and given no chance of ever walking, Harati was outfitted with a splint and a pair of crutches aboard the SS HOPE, and began a course of physical therapy under the direction of an Indonesian therapist trained by HOPE volunteers. With her mother watching, amazed, Harati was soon taking her first steps.
The SS HOPE was the vision of HOPE’s founder Dr. William Walsh, one of President Eisenhower’s physicians at the height of the Cold War. Just before Eisenhower left the White House, Dr. Walsh convinced the President to donate a Navy ship to be outfitted as a floating hospital. Dr. Walsh had a vision of treating patients, especially children, in the developing world. It would be dubbed "the most welcomed ship in the world" and when she was retired in 1974 -- after 11 voyages -- Project HOPE cemented its legacy with new land-based missions.
Decades later, the U.S. Navy's ship-based Humanitarian Civic Assistance program deploys hospital ships to carry out medical humanitarian missions for underserved communities in the developing world. HOPE treasures the partnership it has maintained with the Navy since the Indonesian tsunami in 2004. Today, on the anniversary of HOPE’s first mission, we honor Dr. Walsh’s vision and pay tribute to the many volunteers who travelled the world aboard the SS HOPE, teaching families and health care professionals how to build stronger and healthier communities. Today, we are fortunate to work with thousands of medical volunteers who are making a difference in our sea borne and land-based programs and partnerships worldwide.
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