Mercy Ships has covered plenty of ground in our time; 40 years of service in over 55 countries – and counting. Along the way, we’ve encountered countless truly amazing people, from the patients we serve and the participants we train, to the international volunteers who make up our crew. During the last year, we experienced and adapted to a highly unusual season. Now, as the world continues to heal, we’re taking a closer look at how we’ve grown – and where we are now.
When we wave goodbye to our patients after their surgery and post-op healing is complete, you might think the journey ends there. But we love any opportunity to stay in touch with our patients and reconnect with their stories.
Marie Madeleine never stopped believing in the importance of education. Even when her bending legs and limp made it difficult to walk, she kept making the trek to school every day. “My hope is for her to be like every other girl with a backpack going to school,” shared her mother. “But we couldn’t afford surgery, so we just waited for a miracle.”
Marie Madeleine’s miracle happened in the form of surgery onboard the Africa Mercy, one of our hospital ships. A year after her surgery, she’s walking better than she had in years! Many things have changed in this bright 14-year-old’s life, but one thing has remained the same – she still loves to learn!
“She is going to school and she says she wants to be a doctor!” says Marie Madeleine’s mother. “She wants to help people back like she was helped.”
Sekouba – then 12 years old – was one of the patients who stole many volunteer’s hearts during his time onboard the Africa Mercy in Guinea, 2018. He came to the ship with a tumor the size of a golf ball nestled in his cheek. The opportunity to receive safe, free surgery onboard the ship didn’t just change his health and future, but it also saved the family from financial ruin, as they had tried to sell their land in order to afford a local surgery.
Three years after Sekouba’s successful surgery, it was time to check in for an update!
“Before my surgery, my friends were laughing at me. I was not going to school. Before the surgery nobody was approaching me, but after the surgery, people come close to me. I am happy, because I was healed.” Today, Sekouba is back in school and thrilled to be a part of his community again.
When the pandemic broke out in early 2020, many of the international medical professionals onboard courageously decided to leave the ship and return to their home countries to serve on the frontlines where the pandemic was rife. We followed up with many of these volunteers to learn more about their crucial contributions to care in their own hospitals and communities. What did we learn? Not surprisingly, these healthcare workers continue to be our heroes.
Take Nicole Lukens. During the early outbreak of COVID-19, Nicole joined an emergency response list at home to help with large-scale testing sites. She eventually returned to work in outpatient surgery, but still spends much of her time providing COVID testing to patients in need. “I think all healthcare workers have been affected by the last year in terms of adapting, but the true heroes are those healthcare workers on the floors every workday caring for these patients.”
John Drago, another former Mercy Ships volunteer, has been treating COVID-19 patients daily since leaving the ship. As an anesthesiologist at a large US teaching hospital, John’s been actively using his skills and heart for service every day in the hospital wards. In addition to treating COVID-19 patients, John works with trauma, transplant, and orthopedic patients to provide vital care.
We’re so proud to continue seeing these volunteers use their skills where it’s needed most, and hope to see familiar faces back onboard when the time is right!
Where in the world are our ships? While our fleet isn’t actively operating in Africa during this season, we are taking this time to prepare them for the future.
The Global Mercy continues to move closer to her first field service in Africa! We recently celebrated her delivery, marking the end of the construction phase and the official handover of the vessel from shipyard. She’s all ours! Next, she will set sail for Antwerp, Belgium, where she’ll be outfitted with all the finishing touches needed to become a fully functioning floating hospital and floating training center.
The Africa Mercy has spent the last year in a shipyard in Tenerife, where she continues to receive the maintenance needed for a new lease on life. From a paint refresh to integral refits, she’s getting the attention needed to continue serving in Africa for many years to come.
We look forward to the near future, where we will have both of our ships back in service where they belong – bringing hope and healing in Africa.
Want to be a part of this exciting time onboard our fleet of hospital ships? There are so many ways to get involved, and we need you onboard! Check out the opportunities