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Project HOPE medical volunteers provide lifesaving training to improve care for sick and vulnerable in West Africa

Millwood, Virginia, February 18, 2011

Medical volunteers from Project HOPE, an international health education and humanitarian aid organization, are launching a mission with the U.S. Navy to improve health standards for patients at risk of malnutrition, dehydration and disease in Ghana.

Retired Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Coast Guard, Dr. Joyce Johnson, leads the team of four medical volunteers on the two-week land-based trip to the western city of Sekondi -- Project HOPE’s 22nd mission with the U.S. Navy.

“There are many benefits for signing up as a medical volunteer for Project HOPE. We provide exceptional care to the patients, have an impact with training for health care providers, work in an organized environment with the Navy and have adequate supplies,” said Dr. Johnson.

The HOPE medical volunteers are training local staff to improve emergency room care, triage, and medical procedures in local facilities that are sometimes hampered by a lack of staff and equipment to treat the critically ill. Patients from infancy to the elderly seeking treatment for fever, malaria and other treatable illnesses will also receive care.

“A major function of the program is to train nurses and other health care providers so that the impact of the volunteer’s work will continue after they have left,” said Dr. Johnson, on her fourth mission for Project HOPE.

The Ghana mission is the second for Carolyn Springman, a nurse and native of Montoursville, Pennsylvania. Ms. Springman works as oncology nurse in San Francisco, California and will be lecturing on oncology nursing in Ghana. She says that mentoring local staff to help them improve their skills gives her a renewed sense of purpose as a health care provider.

“Working with Project HOPE in 2009 for the Continuing Promise Mission in Latin America changed by life. I am both excited and a bit nervous about the challenges of this work in Ghana, but I know it will be another amazing experience for everyone involved,” she said.

Dr. Johnson, board certified in Public Health and Preventive Medicine, says her role as HOPE’s medical director on this aid mission is to support, guide and enable HOPE volunteers to share vital knowledge with others under sometimes stressful conditions.

The Project HOPE team includes at least some members who have done this type of work before and they help the others adjust to the environment, she said.

The joint effort, known as the Africa Partnership Station, is among several annual endeavors by Project HOPE and the U.S. Navy since they partnered in 2005 to provide disaster relief after the Indian Ocean tsunami struck Southeast Asia, killing 230,000 people.

Project HOPE and the U.S. Navy are ideal partners, as we bring complementary strengths to each mission. HOPE’s dedicated volunteers bring a wide range of experiences , and the Navy provides wonderful support, which greatly facilitates our work together,” said John P. Howe III, M.D., President and CEO of Project HOPE.

In Africa, Project HOPE and the U.S. Navy have carried out previous humanitarian aid missions to Ghana and Liberia, and Project HOPE has established health education programs in Mozambique, Namibia, Malawi and South Africa.

The Project HOPE and U.S. Navy partnership has produced 22 humanitarian aid missions worldwide, treating over 500,000 patients, performing nearly 10,000 surgeries and training over 115,000 health care workers.

About Project HOPE
Founded in 1958, Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) is dedicated to providing lasting solutions to health crises, with the mission of helping people to help themselves. Identifiable to many by the SS HOPE, the world’s first peacetime hospital ship, Project HOPE now conducts land-based medical training and health education programs in 35 countries across five continents. 

Contact: Geraldine Carroll, Project HOPE Media Relations Specialist (540) 257-3746 or gcarroll@projecthope.org