Christine Booth, Project Hope volunteer, comforts a burn victim receiving medical care at Da Nang General Hospital during Pacific Partnership 2017 Da Nang, May 9. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Joshua Fulton)

DA NANG, Vietnam - Each year Pacific Partnership provides support and the exchanging of knowledge to help strengthen relationships with partner nations around the world. An integral part of Pacific Partnership 2017 has been its volunteers from the Project HOPE foundation, which delivers essential medicine and supplies, health expertise and medical training to respond to disaster, prevent disease, promote wellness and save lives.

Project HOPE's humanitarian assistance programs occur worldwide to provide resources where they are needed most. Emergency missions and organized groups provide medical care with volunteer doctors and nurses, exchanging expertise and skills with local providers while helping to rehabilitate health facilities and provide essential medicine and supplies.

One Project HOPE volunteer on the Pacific Partnership 2017 Da Nang team described how the organization's partnership with the U.S. Navy has opened doors for humanitarian efforts like Pacific Partnership.

"I think it's great when we can work together on something instead of working on separate projects with the same goal," said Jim Schermerhorn, disaster medical response advisor with Project HOPE. "The end result has capacity to be much greater when we bring our abilities and knowledge to the table and work together."

During Pacific Partnership 2017, volunteers from Project HOPE teamed up with U.S., Japanese and Australian military medical personnel, as well as Vietnamese doctors and nurses to exchange knowledge while treating patients in local hospitals. From performing knee surgeries to treating burn victims, every member of the medical team has made a meaningful impact, providing help and care to the community of Da Nang.

"There's been a lot of knowledge sharing on this mission with the locals and ourselves," said Nora Chovick, pharmacists and Project HOPE volunteer. "Instances such as how they're dressing wounds for a patient, or what medicines they're using, and we're finding that they're doing it almost the same way we do it. They have quite good clinical skills here at the hospitals which is great because it makes it easier to pass exchange ideas."

The history of Project HOPE has deep ties with the United States Navy, beginning with Dr. William B. Walsh, who serving as a medical officer aboard a destroyer during World War II, was moved by the poor health conditions he saw in regions of the South Pacific. In 1958, Walsh persuaded President Dwight D. Eisenhower to donate a U.S. Navy hospital ship, the USS Consolation. The ship was transformed into the SS HOPE, and the organization known as Project HOPE was born. Today, the spirit of the SS HOPE lives on through Project HOPE's partnership with the U.S. Navy, which sends medical volunteers around the globe to provide health care and health education in partnership missions like Pacific Partnership 2017.

Perhaps no other region is as diverse culturally, economically or in terms of religion as the Southeast Asian region. However each country faces similar health threats; the health of women and children, childhood cancers and infectious and chronic diseases have been identified as important health issues and Project HOPE serves on the front lines in fighting them. With the organizations partnership with Pacific Partnership 2017, they can offer sustainable solutions to health care needs by providing education for health professionals and addressing issues related to infectious diseases and women's health.

"Project HOPE is a good organization in the sense that it's involved with a lot of disaster response and humanitarian efforts like Pacific Partnership that really help people; these are the things that we think are important and it's why we volunteer," said Schermerhorn. "Project HOPE and Pacific Partnership have a lot of the same goals so the missions sync up very well with each other and we both achieve our goals by working together."

Project HOPE's influence in Pacific Partnership 2017 continues to inspire both civilian and military personnel involved with the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission. Many of the volunteers in Da Nang will continue on to Khanh Hoa for the last stop of Pacific Partnership 2017 before returning home.

"We're especially working together for the patients here in Da Nang as well as to gain knowledge and pass on our own," said Chovick. "I've learned a lot working with all the team members here both from Vietnam and abroad, and I'm ready to learn more as we continue Pacific Partnership."