New Zealand’s Dr Andrew Clark, International Chaplain on the world’s largest civilian hospital ship, explains why he volunteers with Mercy Ships ; the hospital ship charity dedicated to multiplying access to safe surgery for people in low income countries.
“So many people in the world today lack access to safe, affordable and timely surgery. And that’s what I saw in these different places,” he explains.
What’s most impacting to me about this work
“I love how we get to perform life-giving surgeries that radically transform the lives of individuals. The opportunity to alleviate human suffering and distress by helping the blind to see, the lame to walk and those with disfiguring tumours or cleft palates to regain their beautiful smiles again is an honour and something that is never taken lightly. However, when we get the opportunity to train and mentor an entire local surgical team – the surgeon, theatre nurses, anaesthetist and anaesthetic technicians, sterile processing technicians and biomedical technicians, we get to multiply our efforts and leave a lasting footprint that goes beyond transforming individuals to transforming whole communities and beyond. Training the whole team is vitally important.
As our Biomedical Manager says, “You can have the best surgeon and the best clinical staff working together, but when the medical equipment is not reliable, your patient is not safe yet.”
In sub-Saharan Africa, 9 out of 10 people living don’t have access to safe, affordable and timely surgery. We want to move the dial on that statistic so that people will no longer be marginalised by their disease, disfigurement or disability because a local surgical team will be able to give them access to quality surgical care and treat them with the dignity and respect so that, as one of our surgeons puts it, they can take a seat again at the table of humanity.
Now, I’m involved in the spiritual health of the organisation and of our crew. What happens is that people come, because they have a talent, a gift, an occupation – something that they can do, so that we can do what we do.”
You can help Mercy Ships make a transformational difference
While some may think communicable diseases are Africa’s biggest threat, Dr Andrew Clark from @Mercy Ships NZ explains “the biggest problem by far is the lack of access to safe, affordable and timely surgery,” which he says accounts for some 17 million deaths every year.