Tuesday 2 January 2018: Narre Warren South grandmother Jennifer Marshall has arrived home after spending the last seven weeks volunteering on board the Africa Mercy, the world’s largest civilian hospital ship.
A bookkeeper by profession, Ms Marshall worked in the on board café and shop, providing the crew of more than 400 volunteers with well-deserved coffee breaks and essential items.
Operated by the international medical charity Mercy Ships, the Africa Mercy arrived in Cameroon, Central Africa in August with plans to provide more than 3,000 free, life-changing surgeries during its 10-month stay in port.
Mercy Ships volunteers will also treat over 8,000 patients at a land-based dental clinic, and provide health care training to Cameroonian health care professionals.
“I loved serving on the ship, meeting so many amazing like-minded people” Ms Marshall said.
“It took me a little while to appreciate that making coffee for the crew is important, however, I am told that it is integral to their wellbeing.”
Ms Marshall wanted to do whatever she could to ease the suffering of the world’s vulnerable people.
“I appreciate how blessed I am in Australia and I wanted to give back in an area where I feel there is great need and few resources.”
“To be able to offer healing to those that would otherwise never have this opportunity is a wonderful thing indeed.”
In addition to her usual duties, Ms Marshal took time to visit the ship’s hospital wards, where she spent time befriending an 18-year-old girl who had surgery on board to correct burn contractures on both feet.
“I loved spending time with her; even though we didn’t speak the same language we developed quite a lovely connection,” she remembered.
Ms Marshall found the burns injuries particularly distressing, as they can so easily be prevented.
“With the proper treatment at the time of the incident, these types of long term issues wouldn’t exist.”
Even with hundreds of volunteers from all over the world on board, Mrs Marshall says there was still a great atmosphere of unity.
“There is no competition or arrogance. The doctors are on the same salary as the cleaners, so to speak, and we were all there with the same goal and reason, that is to serve the beautiful people of Cameroon and to provide relief and hope where we can.”
After spending Christmas in Central Africa, Mrs Marshall returned to Narre Warren South last week for belated festivities with her family and plans to return to Mercy Ships as soon as she can.
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.