A Rewarding Experience

Nurse Lesley Davey firmly believes that life begins at 40. Why? She got two specific “starts” that year: she became a Christian, and she heard about Mercy Ships. “I felt very strongly that God wanted me to volunteer,” she recalls, thinking about the first time she learned of the free surgeries and capacity building offered from the Africa Mercy.

Lesley quickly became involved: “I came on board for the first time in 2005 for four weeks. It was such a rewarding experience that I’ve used holiday time every year since to come back.” Lesley was so touched by the work of Mercy Ships that she began spreading the word at home: “I love doing talks because it opens people’s eyes...I joined the UK Speakers Network and spent a lot of time going to groups in the West Country, giving talks about Mercy Ships between trips, raising awareness and funds.”

Finally, in 2013, Lesley joined as a long-term volunteer. She began her service as a team leader in the operating theatre, and then took on the role of Operating Theatre Nurse Educator. Now, her journey continues as she begins this field service as the Clinical Operating Theatre Supervisor. Lesley now has more than a decade of experience serving Mercy Ships in various roles. So what is it about the organisation that continues to capture her imagination? Again, she names two things: the ship’s capacity building initiatives, and its pay-your-way volunteer model.

She speaks about mentoring courses for local health workers with eagerness: “It is exciting that Mercy Ships is leaving something of benefit behind when the ship leaves a country,” she says. And as far as the crew actually paying for the privilege of serving on board? She couldn’t be more ecstatic: “By paying our way, more money is going to the people that really need it. That goes a long way to getting people to support Mercy Ships – they know it’s genuine.”

It’s impossible to serve as a medical volunteer on the Africa Mercy and not be hugely impacted by the lives of patients. For Lesley, one particular man, Harris from Liberia, stands out. His tumour had been enormous and his community rejected him. But after much waiting, Mercy Ships surgeons were able to remove the tumour. Harris, like Lesley at the age of 40, was able to begin his life anew.