In the News

 

IT specialists volunteering on board the Mercy Ship more than 30 years apart share their experiences providing information technology that allows this state of the art hospital to be fully functional in developing nation ports. Read the challenges faced as the team operate thousands of kilometres from the nearest available technology resources.

 

 

Read the story by Owen McCarthy in bizEDGE

 

 

 

 

The toughest tech you’ll ever love – find out more about volunteering in information services with Mercy Ships

 

 

In the News

Tradies onboard the Mercy Ship have a healthy sense of being part of the larger Mercy Ships team, knowing the free surgeries provided for the poor could not take place unless every crew member played their part, explains Otago man Edmund Rooke.

Until recently, Edmund Rooke from Waimate had never heard of the nation of Senegal. However, signing up as a volunteer for 20 weeks aboard the world’s largest civilian hospital ship finds him working behind the scenes as the Mercy Ships medical teams provide essential surgery and medical capacity building usually unavailable in this developing West African nation.

 

 

 

The 25-year-old is assisting the Mercy Ships tradies who volunteer onboard in the vessel’s technical departments; vital roles rarely associated in most people’s minds with a hospital ship.

‘I love that when I go to work, I know I am doing something that really matters and means something,’ Rooke explains. ‘I’m not working for money, and to be able to do a job that helps out in a higher cause can be immensely rewarding. My service with Mercy Ships gives me a chance to use the skills and abilities I have to make a difference.’

 

 

maritime, medical and general volunteer roles with Mercy Ships

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In the News

Dr Lapham with a participant from Guinea.

Consultant Anaesthetist Dr Hilary Lapham writes about her challenging and unique experiences providing training and support for anaesthesia providers in Guinea, West Africa. Anaesthesia mag Sept 2019 Hilary Lapham PDF

“My most recent role with Mercy Ship was on the Safe Surgery follow-up team. Over three weeks we travelled ‘upcountry’, away from the Ship Ship in the capital’s port, returning to Guinea’s remote regions visiting hospitals where the [Safe Surgery] courses had previously been conducted, explains Dr Lapham. The resources, including equipment and drugs, are very limited. Some hospitals do not have running water.”

 

In the News

SENEGAL WELCOMES MERCY SHIPS WITH OPEN ARMS

 

A handful of Kiwis were amongst the crew vigorously waving flags from the ship’s deck as the Africa Mercy arrived in Dakar, Senegal for the vessel’s first field service; the former flagship Anastasis served here in 1993. This nation 3/4 the size of New Zealand with 3 times our population. It is one of the most stable democracies in Africa with a long history of peacekeeping, but the population struggles at the lowest end of the UN Human Development Index which measures the quality of life.

 

Senegal borders The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Mauritania. Senegalese people are 96% Muslim, and speak French, Wolof and many other dialects (we need lots of translators!)

 

More than 40 New Zealanders will volunteers their skills and expertise in medical, maritime and operational roles in Senegal over the next 10 months, helping to provide essential surgery for the nation’s poor.

 

Mercy Ships is providing free surgeries in Senegal

Why Mercy Ships is in Senegal

The Senegalese people

  • Have 7 physicians per 100,000, compared to NZ’s 285 per 100,000
  • Live in multidimensional poverty at 164/189 in the  UN Human Development Index
  • Lose their children to infant mortality 10x more often than in NZ
  • Have a life expectancy of 60 (M) or 64 (F); 20 years less than Kiwis
  • Typically earn $2,700 per year

 

 

 

In the News

A passion for ships and a love for a good cause pointed former Commander Larry Robbins towards Mercy Ships, a charity dedicated to medical treatment in the world’s poorest countries. He talks to Navy Today about his work.

The Africa Mercy is the world's largest civilian hospital ship, and the maritime crew play a vital role in the delivery of healthcare services to Africa's poor
Larry Robbins served as navigation officer for the voyage from Tenerife to Brazziville, Republic of Congo

In 2009, when Larry Robbins was asked if he’d like to be on the board of Mercy Ships NZ, he didn’t have to think about it for long.

The retired naval officer and former Commanding Officer of HMNZS MONOWAI had been a long-time “modest” supporter of Mercy Ships, both during his 26-year naval career and after, as Chief Executive Officer of the New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Mercy Ships is a 40-year-old international charity that deploys hospital ships to countries where medical treatment is scarce. They deliver free healthcare services – including surgical treatment.

In 2005 Mr Robbins met Lord Ian McColl, a Vice-Chairman with Mercy Ships International, at the museum. His lordship, also a surgeon volunteer on hospital ships at the time, made a strong impression on him. Later, after retiring from the museum, Mr Robbins was invited to a MSNZ  function and met the Director of Mercy Ships New Zealand. They realised they had met before, in 1997 when MONOWAI was about to be decommissioned and Mercy Ships were eyeing up whether to bid to take her over. A short while after the function he was approached to join the board.

 

Each Mercy Ships volunteer crew member has a passion to serve the poor and uses their skills to help the hospital ship achieve that end
Larry Robbins greets Ebenezer, a maxillofacial patient

“I didn’t have to think about it very much,” says Mr Robbins. “My wife and I had been supporters, and I had met Lord McColl. He was such a lovely man. I

thought, if he’s the mark of the organisation, it’s worth belonging to.”

But three years in, he realised he was the only board member who hadn’t done a crew stint on MV Africa Mercy, the largest and newest ship in the Mercy Ships fleet, and the largest non-governmental floating hospital in the world. The ship spends 10 months a year in Africa, performing up to 2,000 surgeries. It is currently in Guinea; next year it will be in Senegal.

Mr Robbins had a Second Mate’s qualification, albeit 40 years out of date, courtesy of his time in the British Merchant Navy in the seventies. Fed up with unions, he had emigrated to New Zealand in 1974 to join the Royal New Zealand Navy, full of “the optimism of youth”, he says. “So I spoke to Maritime New Zealand and did some courses to get my second mate’s ticket revalidated.”

He ended up doing five tours of duty in Africa Mercy, with tours lasting for up to three months. In total, he’s done 13 months at sea over five years. He’s been Third Officer, Second Officer and – for five glorious weeks in the Canary Islands – second officer, acting Chief Officer, and acting Master. “It was great fun being a second officer, and using my navigation skills. It was a lot more fun than being in command would have been, to be honest.”

 

Mercy Ships operates the world's largest civilian hospital shipOfficers have single cabins or family quarters on board, and there’s even a fully accredited school for children. But Mr Robbins’ wife says: “Ships are your thing.”

It meant Mr Robbins got to see, first hand, how Mercy Ships changed lives in Africa.

“It’s amazing seeing the work they do,” he says. “With Africa Mercy, the hospital and ship are very much intertwined. So as a deck officer, you walk through the hospital on rounds, you see the patients, and you see the horrendous conditions they come from.”

In the Congo, he remembers a woman called Grace, who had a massive facial tumour. “We were in the Congo for four months, and she was our first patient on board. She was reasonably philosophical about her tumour, but came to have it treated. She had an operation, and they rebuilt her jaw. She just blossomed afterwards. It was just wonderful to see.

“It’s the difference they make in the lives of people, who have very little in the way of health care. There’s a flow-on effect to families. For instance, if a child can’t walk, the parents put a lot of time and effort into looking after that child. They can’t go out and earn a living. One family we met, the father had cataracts, and the child couldn’t go school because he had to look after his father. His father got his sight back, and the kid could go to school.”

Mr Robbins observes that in New Zealand hospitals, nursing staff come and go. “On Africa Mercy, nurses have got the time to get to know the patients, because the nurses are living on the ship. Everybody on the ship can adopt a patient. I would talk to them as I was doing my rounds.”

On one trip there were 34 nationalities among the crew, with 12 New Zealanders on board. “There’s a tremendous sense of community and equality. The captain and officers mix and mingle with everybody, and it’s communal dining.”

The hardest volunteers to recruit are those in the technical trades, he says. “And officers need to have a merchant qualification.”

Mr Robbins has just retired as board chair of Mercy Ships NZ, a role he had for three years. His Second Mate’s ticket expired last year, and he doesn’t intend to renew. But his involvement with the charity continues, with speaking tours. He’s qualified as a ship’s security officer and hopes to return to Africa Mercy in that capacity. “I just like ships,” he says.

 

As of last month, Mercy Ships has provided 100,000 free surgical procedures in 40 years of service. These include cleft lip and palate repairs, cataract removal, orthopaedic procedures, facial reconstruction and obstetric fistula repairs.

Each year, around 1,000 people from up to 40 nations, including New Zealand, volunteer their skills and expertise with Mercy Ships. Professionals like officers, seamen, engineers, surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, cooks, and teachers donate their time and skills to the effort.

Mercy Ships are always in need of maritime crew. Opportunities are both short term (a couple of months) through to long term for the senior and management roles.

BY ANDREW BONALLACK, PUBLISHED WITH PERMISSION FROM NAVY TODAY

Maritime and naval-trained volunteers help mercy Ships provide free essential surgery for Africa's poor

 

In the News

If you are looking for a change and a chance to pay it forward, working for a few months as a volunteer electrician, engineer or technician on the world’s largest civilian hospital ship in Africa could be just what you need, says Sharon Walls from Mercy Ships.

Mercy Ships is now recruiting for places like Senegal and Liberia where the faith-based charity will be delivering free, world-class healthcare services to needy people in the developing world.

Walls says volunteering on the Mercy Ship is an immensely rewarding experience building both career and character.

“We are looking for skilled, self-sufficient people who can adapt to the challenges of keeping our electrical systems working to support our medical teams in the life-saving operations they perform.”

Electronics technician, Filips Jansons from Allandale near Christchurch, completed a six-month tour recently where he volunteered on Africa Mercy in the electrical engineering department, while the hospital ship was docked in Guinea, West Africa.

He says volunteering on the ship has benefited him greatly and he liked living and working in the on-board community made up of people from different cultures and beliefs.

“We were are able to work alongside each other. I think that’s something you don’t get anywhere else, with such a broad spectrum of age and experience.”

Jansons says he had the opportunity to involve himself in many areas of the ship and work on a variety of systems, machines and equipment, ranging from auto fire detection systems, fuel purifiers, cranes, main distribution switchboards, medical air monitoring systems, many marine electronics, and much more.

“My days on the ship were never the same. As a technician back home, I would need to work for several different industries to gain that sort of experience.”

Filips Jansons, Electronics Technician, at work onboard the Mercy Ship

Over its 40 years of operation, Mercy Ships has performed more than 100,000 free, life-changing or life-saving surgical procedures such as cleft lip and palate repairs, cataract removal, orthopaedic procedures, facial reconstruction and obstetric fistula repairs. Services and materials valued at more than $2.33 billion have directly benefitted more than 2.71 million people in 70 nations.

Sharon Walls says each year, around 1,000 volunteers from up to 40 nations volunteer with Mercy Ships and are supported by 16 offices around the world, including Auckland.

Volunteers for Africa Mercy are volunteers in every sense of the word, raising funds or paying their own way to the African port, and $1000 per month for room and board on the ship. Walls says with everyone contributing to their own way of getting there, every cent donated helps provide essential surgical services for the poor.

Africa Mercy is a 16,000 tonne vessel about the size of a Cook Strait ferry. It has five operating theatres on board and five wards, along with consulting and treatment spaces. The ship generates all its own power and diagnostic equipment connects to experts around the world via satellite.

Walls says everyone works a 45-hour week with rostered time off. Mercy Ships has an immediate vacancy for electrical crew, and vacancies for two or three more in 2020.

From Electrolink magazine, reposted with permission

More about electrical and electronics roles on board Mercy Ships here 

Africa Mercy in the Port of Conakry, with members of Deck & Engineering on the bow.

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In the News

The National Awards for Fundraising Excellence has recognised the Mercy Ships NZ capital campaign as the best 2019 design and implementation of a planned giving campaign that truly connected with our major donors and increased the number of significant gifts to our charity.

The judges’ comments were;

Love that this campaign is primarily volunteer-led. Really like how much they pushed themselves to achieve their target. A solid, best-practice campaign.

 An outstanding campaign and very detailed submission; they really told the story how a small fundraising team faced down a major fundraising challenge and learnt a lot along the way. A successful capital project,  and a good example of how to work with high net worth donors on a large scale project.

 

Our grateful thanks to the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand (FINZ)to  Moceanic for sponsoring the award, our awesome partners at Giving Architects, and to our amazing, huge-hearted Capital Campaign Cabinet who have so passionately and successfully shared the story.

Capital Campaign Cabinet, Mercy Ships NZ

In the News

The National Awards for Fundraising Excellence has recognised the Mercy Ships NZ capital campaign as the best 2019 design and implementation of a planned giving campaign that truly connected with our major donors and increased the number of significant gifts to our charity.

The judges’ comments were;

Love that this campaign is primarily volunteer-led. Really like how much they pushed themselves to achieve their target. A solid, best-practice campaign.

 An outstanding campaign and very detailed submission; they really told the story how a small fundraising team faced down a major fundraising challenge and learnt a lot along the way. A successful capital project,  and a good example of how to work with high net worth donors on a large scale project.

 

Our grateful thanks to the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand (FINZ)to  Moceanic for sponsoring the award, our awesome partners at Giving Architects, and to our amazing, huge-hearted Capital Campaign Cabinet who have so passionately and successfully shared the story.

      Capital Campaign Cabinet, Mercy Ships NZ

In the News

In the News

British Journal of Surgery (BJS) has published an important medical paper about the work of Mercy Ships. The paper is an evaluation of our implementation of the WHO’s Surgical Safety Checklist in Benin in 2016/17,  co-authored by Mercy Ships expert Dr Michelle White of Great Ormond Street Hospital, and Dr Nina Capo-Chichi, a surgeon in Benin,

The Checklist is a simple tool that has been repeatedly shown to improve surgical outcomes and reduce mortality and morbidity.

‘One of the greatest challenges we face in tackling this problem is how to take proven interventions, and implement them successfully, at scale in low-income settings.’ Dr Michelle White.

In Benin, Mercy Ships volunteer experts visited 36 hospitals and delivered three days of multidisciplinary checklist training at each site, teaching medical staff how to use the Checklist. The aim was to see how great an effect Mercy Ships could have by running intensive courses in Checklist training across a whole country, rather than spending six to 12 months in a single hospital. Would the healthcare providers still be using the Checklist up to four months later?

‘We found that checklist use increased from 31% pre-training to 89% at four months and this was sustained at 86% 12-18 months later. Also after 12-18 months, there was high fidelity use and high penetration shown by an improvement in hospital safety culture.’ Dr Nina Capo-Chichi.

This evaluation, published in the BJS, forms part of the ongoing assessment of Mercy Ships field services in Benin. Assessing our work in this way enables us to improve the delivery of our projects and connect our work to tangible outcomes and impact subsequent field services; offer better healthcare strategy advice to host nations’ governments, and provide information to other non-governmental organisations working in low and middle-income countries.

The paper also stands with a growing body of work led by female medics and jointly with professionals in both Western and Sub-Saharan Africa – a hallmark of the innovative and collaborative approach Mercy Ships is proud to promote.

See a video summary and read the full paper ‘Implementation and evaluation of nationwide scale-up of the Surgical Safety Checklist’

‘Leaving a legacy of lasting change is crucial, so in addition to providing direct medical care on our hospital ship during a ten-month field service, Mercy Ships implements a programme focused on health system-strengthening and quality improvement across the whole country, with the goal of improving the medical care provided for generations to come,’ stated Dr Peter Linz, International Chief Medical Officer at Mercy Ships.