Having worked in the NHS, I understand the basic right to free healthcare, regardless of where you live. That you shouldn’t have to worry about the cost of any medical care you need. Globally five billion people don’t have access to safe surgical care. Mercy Ships aims to help the people we can and contribute to increasing the level of surgical care offered in the countries we visit, by training and mentoring programmes. The Bible says in Isaiah 61 that we are sent to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. For me, volunteering for Mercy Ships is, in a practical way, about offering our skills and experience to help.
I first came across Mercy Ships when I attended Frenzy, the Christian music conference, in 2006, in Edinburgh. There was a Mercy Ships table. I always wanted to work in medical missions overseas, but thought you had to be a doctor or nurse, but when I told them I was a radiographer, the lady at the table said Mercy Ships needed radiographers. At the moment I knew where my life would eventually lead. I first came onboard in January 2012, and four times after that. Everything I have done since first discovering Mercy Ships in 2006 has been in preparation to come and serve onboard long-term, which I have been doing since July 2017.
When I don’t have the pager, I go to the beach with friends, we cook brunches together and go out in the port city that we are in to explore.
I grew up in a small town, where you know everyone so it feels very much like home for me. I really like being part of an international community where everyone brings different stories and traditions. You get to know people very quickly as you live with cabin mates, eat meals and socialise together onboard. Colleagues don’t stay strangers very long when you are all onboard for the same purpose. You feel part of a wider team, onboard and also at the 12 National Mercy Ships Offices. We are all working together.
I will always remember Mariatou. She was a patient from Mali who I met while onboard in Guinea in 2013. Noma is a gangrenous infection which destroys facial tissue. She had a lost her nose to this infection. Normally, at home, it would have been treated by antibiotics, but she didn’t have access to a doctor. Dr Gary Parker, our surgeon here was able to operate and create her a new nose from a skin and muscle graft. It was such a remarkable transformation.
If you are thinking of volunteering, I would recommend watching some of the YouTube videos of patients that we have helped. To understand the joy when lives are changed. It is such a privilege to be involved with this work.