Monday 12 March 2018: Bronte Blundell-Gray will return home to Epping from Central Africa early next month after swapping her job as an RN on the orthopaedic ward of The Children’s Hospital at Westmead for a volunteer role on board the world’s largest independent hospital ship.
“I first heard about Mercy Ships when I was in my final year of nursing at university in 2014,” she remembered.
“My mother knew that I had always wanted to go to Africa, and she’d seen the program The Surgery Ship on SBS, so she told me about the Africa Mercy ship and what they do.”
“I immediately researched more to find out what I needed to do to get on board!”
Miss Blundell-Gray, who celebrated her 24th birthday on board in February, is volunteering for two months as a paediatric ward nurse on the general surgery ward of the ship which is currently docked in Cameroon.
“We see numerous specialties and surgeries on the ward including hernia repairs, cataract surgeries, burn/plastics surgeries, lipoma removals, cleft lip repairs and women’s fistula repairs.”
“I always had the desire to visit Africa to help in some way. When I heard about Mercy Ships there was no question as to whether I would offer myself, I just had to wait until I had enough experience.”
After finishing university, Miss Blundell-Gray volunteered in a medical clinic in Ghana and later in Zambia, experiences that re-confirmed her passion for working in Africa.
“By this time, I was able to apply for Mercy Ships as I had the two years’ experience required. I had no fears in applying as it had been my goal for so long.”
“I was willing to quit my job if I had to but thankfully I was able to arrange leave without pay.”
Miss Blundell-Gray admits that she had never heard of Cameroon before being offered a position with Mercy Ships.
“I went to my globe in my bedroom and searched the continent and there it was, right next to Nigeria!”
“So I knew nothing of the country but that they must be in dire need of access to medical assistance, and that was enough for me.”
The Africa Mercy docked in the port city of Douala, Cameroon, in August 2017 with plans to provide almost 4,000 thousand life-changing surgeries onboard our hospital ship, to treat over 8,000 at a land-based dental clinic as well as providing health care training to local medical professionals.
“I regret absolutely nothing about my decision to serve on board the Africa Mercy and hope to serve again in the future.”
“This experience is phenomenal; it takes you out of your comfort zone, flies you to the other side of the world, and drops you on a boat. And then they say swim. Not many people can say they’ve had the pleasure!”
“It’s unbelievable this mission runs smoothly, made up of people from all over the world with different knowledge and skill sets, but somehow it just does. And it feels so special to be a part of it.”
She said it was a privilege to experience the Cameroonian culture.
“As much as I come to Africa to change lives, I know that my life will never be the same after being surrounded by such beautiful people.”
“I know I will be richer by the experience each time I come to this continent, and this time has been no different.”
About Mercy Ships
Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class health care services, capacity building and sustainable development aid to those without access in the developing world. Founded in 1978, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1.3 billion, with more than 2.56 million direct beneficiaries. Each year, more than 1,200 volunteers from over 40 nations serve with Mercy Ships. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, health care trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time. Mercy Ships Australia, one of 16 international support offices, is based on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. For more information, visit www.mercyships.org.au
For further information, please contact:
National Office Manager
Mercy Ships Australia
(07) 5437 2992
High resolution photos are available upon request, with attribution to Mercy Ships.