2017 June

These are the stories of a few of the 35 Kiwis who served on board in Benin, some volunteering for a second, third or even a fifth tour-of-duty

Tony Diprose, Anaesthetist


The Hastings anaesthetist tells The Herald what struck him on board the Mercy Ship was the wide range of people vital to providing life-transforming surgery for Africa’s poor. ‘I’d never have thought to say to a plumber, ‘Mate, you could make a real difference in healthcare in West Africa!’ Some of the crew will never set foot in an operating theatre, but there’s a real need on the ship currently for a mechanic, plumbers, maritime crew; they need a carpenter. These people are as much part of our patients’ treatment as any of the theatre staff.’ Read more





Steph & Jonny Clark
Ward Nurse, IT Specialist



Watch The Herald interview with this young couple who used their skill mix to pay it forward, serving Benin’s poor for three months, or read the IT Brief story about what the world of a geek is like on board the world’s largest civilian hospital ship






Deb Adesanya, Nurse



Her intended five-week volunteer tour-of-duty on board the Mercy Ship soon was extended to 20 weeks, and her heart was forever changed by the individuals she met. Deb explains, ‘My favourite part of this whole experience was the people; I loved the patients, their families, the day crew, and the locals I met!’ Read her story this month in Womans’ Day magazine, on shelves August 13, 2017! 





Nathan Collis. Electrician


Nathan Collis, ElectricianCollis was deeply impacted on a very personal level by the larger work of Mercy Ships in their mission to provide essential surgical services to Africa’s poorest people. ‘Getting to watch a cleft lip operation take place was definitely one of the most impacting moments for me. I was born with a cleft lip. Because I was fortunate enough to be born in New Zealand I don’t really have any memory of this, as it was fixed as soon as possible. This teenager had not been given that opportunity. He had gone through his life up being made fun of, and struggling to eat. An operation which takes a little over an hour changes someone’s life so radically.’ Read his story in August’s Electrolink magazine 




Larry Robbins, Deck Officer



The retired Navy Commander explains to North and South Magazine why he volunteers regularly on board the Mercy Ship. Larry describes his duties that are essential to the function of the hospital ship, and how much he loves the comradery on board. “I have enjoyed my time in this 400-strong community from 34 different nations, and found it most satisfying both for the work and the sense of purpose.”





Ellen Parker, Paediatric Nurse



Ellen Parker shares, ‘My imagination was captured by the idea of volunteering on a hospital ship when I heard about the first Mercy Ship in 1983.The challenge to use my training to help people in poverty simply stuck in my mind, and just never went away. Half a lifetime later, at the age of 66, my dreams became reality as I stepped onto the deck of another Mercy Ship a hemisphere away.’ Read more at OverSixty.com

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2017 June

Gladys before her Ponseti treatment

Six years ago, Jaqueline fell in love with a man whose parents didn’t approve of her. “They wanted to choose a bride for him, someone from his own village,” she explains. “His parents told him if he married me, his life would not turn out well.” The two decided to marry anyway.

Not long after, Jacqueline became pregnant. When baby Gladys was born, what should have been a joyous occasion became a horrific shock as they discovered something was wrong. One of Gladys’s feet was facing the wrong direction, a condition known as clubfoot. At the sight of his newborn daughter’s deformity, Gladys’s father believed his parents’ curse was coming to pass. In a panic, he left Jacqueline and his one-month-old baby girl.

“I was the only one fighting for my child,” recalls Jacqueline. Though they were on their own, and Jacqueline was now a single mum, she filled the role of two parents and more. She poured herself into her daughter, making it a priority to find help for Gladys’s foot.

Jacqueline’s search started with a local medical facility, where they agreed to treat the condition for 50,000 CFA (around NZ$120). Jacqueline didn’t have the money, but family members offered to take up a collection. “The doctors put pieces of wood on either side of Gladys’s leg and foot and wrapped it with bandages.” But when the contraption was removed, nothing had changed. Jacqueline continued her mission, next checking in with a local hospital. Their prescribed treatment plan was to put an iron rod through Gladys’s foot and leg. But the hefty price tag of $200,000 CFA (NZ$480) made it an impossible option for a mother with modest means. And, as it turned out, there was a much less invasive option available – one that would require no payment.

“When I heard Mercy Ships was in Cotonou, I literally ran,” Jacqueline remembers. Their journey started with screening in September. There Jacqueline received the news that five-year-old Gladys was approved for free surgery. Her little foot and ankle were placed in a cast each week for two months to help adjust their position before a minor surgery would take place in December to release the problem-causing tendon.

After a few more weeks of casting and several months of rehabilitation, Gladys was making good progress. Then, the day finally came. She slipped her foot into a pink sneaker and tied the laces. For the first time, her foot lay flat and pointed forward – supporting her small frame and letting her take big, bold steps in the right direction.


“Since the surgery, Gladys’s father visited us once. When he saw her foot, he couldn’t believe his eyes. He was terribly ashamed of himself,” Jacqueline recounts. “But he’s not my concern. My concern is Gladys.”

Jacqueline’s fight for her daughter was worth it. The constant concern, the persistence search – it all paid off. What she’d hoped and prayed for has become a reality. “God is great. Seeing Gladys walk has brought me such joy,” she says

Story by Windsor Marchesi