Posted By Sharon R. Redding RN, EdD, CNE, President, Project HOPE Alumni Association on April 14, 2018

Labels: , Alumni, Health Care Education, Health Systems Strengthening, Volunteers

new HOPE Alumni Association President

My experiences as a Project HOPE volunteer have been unforgettable and irreplaceable.

I was originally a Peace Corps volunteer serving in Chad and Liberia, where I learned to adapt to challenging living conditions and work activities and was able to use the placements as a springboard to travel Africa on a shoestring budget. That experience then allowed me to move on to Project HOPE, and I’ve never looked back.

I started with HOPE’s land-based programs in Brazil, where I was a nurse educator in Natal and Maceio, working at universities and hospitals. HOPE has given me the opportunity to help people around the world, most recently in Wuhan, China, where I was a faculty member in a large nursing program for two semesters.

In Brazil, I helped to establish a well-baby clinic that provided community health support. The team held a “graduation” party for one-year-olds and celebrated with the mothers, who dressed their healthy babies in the cutest outfits, posed for photos, ate cake, and made a huge, beautiful mess! Celebrating with these families and looking around at these healthy infants, thanks to the resources we provided, I felt very proud to be a part of the project.

In 2016, I took another step in my lifelong volunteerism and was elected President of the HOPE Alumni Association. This meant volunteering in a different capacity—serving as a spokesperson, promoting giving opportunities for alumni, and working on ongoing programs through alumni grants. The great thing about Project HOPE is that our volunteers make a community. Everyone who has ever worked for HOPE is automatically a member of the Alumni Association and can participate in HOPE efforts in various ways. The legacy of being a HOPE volunteer is a long-term connection with former co-workers and counterparts and allows us to integrate life-changing cross-cultural and career experiences as we move through our lives and gain new perspectives. I would have to say that being a HOPE volunteer just “runs in your blood!” 

Our Alumni Association goes back to the very beginning. The founders first served on the SS HOPE. Over the years, our membership has evolved and includes everyone from individuals making long-term commitments to those who have accepted short-term and repeated assignments, including disaster relief programs. Alumni have accepted multiple program assignments in various capacities and it’s an amazing community to be a part of.       

To any student or health professional interested in international volunteer experiences, I encourage you to take part in what HOPE has to offer. HOPE opens pathways for future opportunities and creates lifelong friendships with individuals who become cherished friends. Not to mention, you add valuable experiences and skillsets to your resume. The cross-cultural and travel opportunities become something you want to continue to satisfy, and these moments are available when you least expect them. Project HOPE has an excellent record of service, functions in a very cost-effective manner and is highly regarded by similar agencies for its sustainability and philosophy of working hand-in-hand with people it serves. National Volunteer Week is a great opportunity to reflect on the positive impact that volunteers bring to underserved communities and recommit ourselves to HOPE’s important mission.  

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