01 Jun Volunteer Christabelle has walked the walk and is now talking the talk for Mercy Ships
Ghanaian-born Mercy Ships volunteer Christabelle Brimpong passionately believes in the vision of Mercy Ships. After volunteering onboard, she now wants to spread the word as a speaker. But what makes a volunteer, volunteer?
For everyone who volunteers, the desire to do so is a deeply personal one. And for Christabelle Brimpong from Wellington in Somerset, the desire to help had been deep within her from an early age – just waiting for the opportunity.
Christabelle was born in Ghana and moved to the UK at 17 to do her A-levels. But it was not the first time she had lived in Britain.
As a small child, she had spent two years living in Bangor in Wales while her dad did a degree at the university. On returning to Ghana, aged five, she struggled to remember the two dialects of Akan she had been born into and chatted on in Welsh.
“I should have been speaking Twi but I had forgotten it and spoke only English and Welsh. Then when I came back, I went to the University of Glamorgan for my degree, I could not remember any Welsh!”
The stark difference between access to healthcare on the African continent and the UK is evident to her.
“I recognise how blessed I’m that I have access to free or affordable healthcare when I need it having had surgery myself. I do not take it for granted. To think that I can be part of a vision that can support others in this way is humbling and to see the reactions of the recipients in Africa brings tears to my eyes. Being of African descent makes it even more poignant to me.
“I always had a call to a mission from an early age. I just love serving for God.”
She had been aware of Mercy Ships for many years but whilst in Wales she became friends with a couple who volunteered on the ship for over a decade.
Christabelle said, “I had the dream of volunteering for Mercy Ships close to my heart and I was just waiting for the opportunity. I believe so much in the Mercy Ships vision: to give hope.
“When Mercy Ships serves, they don’t just leave, they leave a legacy. I love that vision and as a Christian, it is very important to me what Mercy Ships stands for.”
In 2016, Christabelle had a particularly good year: a landmark birthday where she ticked several things off her places to see; took stock and reflected on life and a strong desire to give something back.
“I was reflecting on my year and asking God what was to come. I felt blessed and I wanted to give bless others as He had blessed me.”
“I had in my mind that I could give three weeks to volunteer somewhere but I couldn’t find anything that fitted that time in charities I applied to. When I went to a church conference, I was minding my own business when a friend came up to me as said, ‘He wants more time.’”
As her friend knew nothing about her plans to volunteer for a mission, she felt this was a very special message from God and one she needed to follow.
She decided to ask her employers, the UK Hydrographic Office, an executive agency of the Ministry of Defence, a world-leading centre for hydrography, for three months unpaid leave to volunteer for Mercy Ships.
Christabelle felt there was some symbioses between her marine mapping job and volunteering on a hospital ship and was thrilled when her chief executive agreed to the plan.
In July 2019, she headed off to serve on the Africa Mercy hospital ship for three months as a hospitality hostess, helping everyone onboard. Half of her time would be based while the ship was having vital refurbishment work and the second half in Senegal, West Africa, with the ship in active service.
“The timing was perfect – I applied and got in. When we sailed to Senegal it was amazing. To be on the open sea for three days with so many like-minded people was amazing.
“I savoured every moment. We met people from all walks of life, and I made lifelong friends. It was hard work but when we were docked in Senegal, but I would just look out on the dock and see the tents with patients and know we are there for them.”
Through church services on the ward and visiting the Hospital Out-Patient Extension (HOPE) centre on the dockside she said she experienced the joy of their surgical transformations.
“I may not be a nurse, but it was good to be a part of this and so humbling. I wanted to stay with Mercy Ships.”
This desire to stay involved with Mercy Ships was one that galvanised her to volunteer to spread her passion for the charity as a speaker.
“As a speaker I want to inspire people to share in the vision or Mercy Ships. I would love to inspire someone to volunteer but if they can’t do that, they could also serve by offering funds.
“We all can serve in our own individual way if we are not able to physically go out and help. There are lots of ways. It all really helps.”
We’re so grateful to all our volunteers like Christabelle, for the incredible contribution they make. Could you be a Mercy Ships speaker like Christabelle? If you are interested in finding more about volunteer opportunities in the UK, we have a Zoom meeting on June 21 at 7pm. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.