Wednesday 18 January 2017: When Moorebank High School teacher Susan Moore told her students that she was going to be spending her summer break working with a charity in Africa, it came as a somewhat of shock.
“One student asked if I would get paid. I said ‘no’ and that I actually had to pay to live on board. He nearly jumped out of his seat!”
Fortunately for Ms Moore, her other students, as well as her family friends, were more supportive of her decision to spend two months volunteering with the international medical charity Mercy Ships on board the world’s largest independent hospital ship, the Africa Mercy.
“I started in housekeeping cleaning the public areas of the ship but transferred to hospitality to fill a shortage of hostesses. I prepared the beds for new crew, took them through their embarkation paper work, and gave tours of the ship.”
Having first learnt about Mercy Ships while watching TV in 2014, Ms Moore says the organisation then began popping up in her Facebook feed and later in a book she was reading.
“I knew right then that God was getting my attention and so I started enquiring about the positions available that I would be able to fill. I initially looked into the teaching position, but was looking at serving for a shorter period.”
“I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I was hoping to meet some great people and see first-hand the ways the ship transforms the lives of people and I have been able to achieve both of these.”
The Africa Mercy arrived in the West African nation of Benin in August. During the current 10-month field service docked in the port city of Cotonou, Mercy Ships plans to provide more than 1,700 surgeries to adult and paediatric patients, to treat over 8,000 people at a land-based dental clinic, and to provide training and mentoring to Beninese health care professionals.
“While I might not have been directly involved in the life-changing surgeries, I made up beds for and embarked those who were.”
“We each had our role to play to get the ship up and running and it’s fascinating to see people from all over the world, from such difference backgrounds, experiences and skill sets come together and serve the people of West Africa.”
“The best thing was meeting the amazing crew on board, getting to know some on a deeper level and hearing their stories of coming on board. I also really enjoyed getting to know the different aspects of the ship and the various roles on board.”
“I had a few experiences with the patients that will stay with me too, especially the kids who had orthopaedic surgery, which has enabled them to walk properly.”
“While playing with some kids in the rehab tent I was able to witness a little girl who I had met on my first weekend walking for the first time out of her casts. It was an amazing experience and I felt so incredibly privileged to witness it.”
“My friends and family wrote me letters for me to open throughout my time and sent Christmas cards for me to open on Christmas day. Their letters and cards often gave me the encouragement and laughs I needed, but also brought out some tears too.”
Ms Moore is now home in Roselands and will return to work at the beginning of the school year.
About Mercy Ships
Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class healthcare services, capacity building and sustainable development to those with little access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1.3 billion, treating more than 2.56 million direct beneficiaries. The Africa Mercy is crewed by 400 volunteers from up to 40 nations, an average of 1000 each year. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. With offices in 16 nations, Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time. For more information visit www.mercyshps.org.au
For further information, please contact:
National Office Manager, Mercy Ships Australia