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ESTHER HARRINGTON

RECEPTIONIST FROM NAPIER

At home she’s a commercial pilot and flight instructor, on board she works in reception where, under the oversight of the Captain, she helps staff the essential communications hub of the Mercy Ship 24/7. ‘I am volunteering with Mercy Ships because my heart is to help people in whatever capacity I can,’ explains the 24-year-old. ‘Our aim is to bring some aid and to strengthen, and train their health care providers and systems. We can help pave the way for Guinea to heal itself. Unless we do, when we leave nothing will change.’

When not on duty, one of Esther’s favourite things to do is be a ‘buddy’ to one of the paediatric patients on board for surgery. Five-year-old M’Muh, pictured here with Esther, had a long recovery after free surgery removed the benign growth that drooped over her forehead like a sack and was beginning to dislodge her eye. In the weeks following M’Muh’s operation, Esther’s TLC and fun-loving games worked alongside state-of-the-art medical care to see the little girl emerge from her shell of rejection and meet the world with a grin.
‘The work that Mercy Ships is doing is of insurmountable importance,’ reflects Esther. ‘The ripple effect that Mercy Ships has on the nations we visit is immeasurable. When people receive aid from the ship, they don’t keep it a secret. They tell anyone and everyone, and it spreads joy and hope. And hope is one of the most powerful things a broken nation can hold onto.’

Since the documentary team was on board filming Ship of Hope, Esther took up a new role in the ship’s housekeeping department. She says she totally loved the fun work with her international crewmates swabbing the decks and keeping the ship in, well, ship-shape.

When M’Mah was born, her mother had a simple wish for her daughter’s life. ‘I want her to be like a diamond — to shine bright,’ she said. Unfortunately for most of M’Mah’s life, the light inside her was overshadowed by the neurofibroma growing on her face.

When she was just a baby, her parents noticed a small lump and dark hairs growing above her left eye. By the time she was five years old, M’Mah’s neurofibroma was drooping over her forehead like a sac and beginning to dislocate her eye.

Over time, more lumps started to develop on her skull and upper lip, causing severe swelling. Even at her young age, other kids noticed M’Mah’s differences, which led to bullying and name-calling. They would call her ‘sick’ and avoid playing with her because they were afraid of her.

As a result, she was spending her childhood on the sidelines. She refused to go to school, even though her parents desperately wanted her to have an education. ‘She was so scared… she said everybody would laugh at her,’ said M’Mah’s mother.

With a heavy shroud of insecurity and fear surrounding M’Mah, it was hard to see the sweet, playful girl inside, waiting to be let out.

The family was poor and struggled to provide enough food for their two children, so an expensive, complicated surgery was out of the question. Her parents prayed every day for healing for their daughter.

When they heard about Mercy Ships, M’Mah’s mother was overjoyed. It was the first time that she’d dared to believe her daughter might receive surgery. The family travelled for hours to get to the Africa Mercy, but the end goal was worth every arduous mile.

Soon, a volunteer plastic surgeon specialising in neurofibromas removed the tumour M’Mah had carried for years.

In the weeks following her operation, M’Mah spent time on board being showered in love and friendship by the nurses, crew and other patients. Esther from Taupo spent many hours playing with the little girl to help her pass away the hours as she recovered from her massive surgery. Freed from worry, the sweet five-year-old slowly emerged from her shell, and her inner diamond began ‘to shine through.

Esther says that on days when I couldn’t make it down to the hospital to play with her, M’Mah asked the translators where her special friend was.

‘One day I went to the hospital just to cuddle her because she was having a bad day. Things were sore, and she was tired. My heart broke as I held her, listening to her deep sobs, and feeling her tears on my arm. But she knew she was safe there. We sat in our own little bubble, and that was enough. I’ve learnt so much about courage and bravery from these little warriors.’

Thanks to her growing confidence, M’Mah is no longer afraid to start school and will begin her education next year.

‘When we came to the ship for the first time, I was just thanking God over and over,’ said M’Mah’s mother. ‘There is no gift greater than good health.’

 

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