New Zealand (Demo)

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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New Zealand (Demo)

Melanie tends to 4-year-old Mediatrice

These days, Pirongia-born nurse Melanie Allen begins each shift with a two-minute walk to work – down several flights of stairs and into the hospital deck of the world’s largest civilian hospital ship, Africa Mercy. In February Melanie joined the volunteer crew of the 16,000 tonne Mercy Ships vessel in Cameroon, West Africa. Her two-month tour-of-duty has already been both eye-opening and professionally challenging.

The 24-year-old is assigned to the ‘plastics’ ward caring, for both child and adult patients after they have received free reconstructive surgery for disabling burns.

‘The most common surgery I have seen so far among my paediatric patients is the release of burn contractures using skin grafts,’ explains Melanie. ‘These burns are often caused by spilling or falling into hot water or oil. The scar tissue that forms becomes tight and shortens, causing the limb to be stuck in a bent position, limiting their mobility and functionality. Other common problems I have seen so far are keloid scars where a prominent scar forms after injury from excessive tissue growth and lipomas which are benign tumours made up of fatty tissue.’

‘In general, the problems patients coming to Mercy Ships may face due to these conditions include a limited ability to work, or get an education, and some may even be ostracized from their communities.’

Armstrong had a large keloid tumour removed from his chin. Melanie is checking his pain level after surgery.

Cameroon can boast only 77 physicians for every million people, so even if patients could scrape together enough money to pay for treatment, timely care is simply not accessible. Similar statistics are echoed all over West Africa, which is why the not-for-profit has been operating hospital ships in the regions for decades.

‘For some people here, the Mercy Ship is their only hope for surgery,’ observes Melanie. ‘They to want regain their dignity, be acceptance back into community life and to have the ability to do things others take for granted.’

‘The Africa Mercy is unique because each year it sails to countries that most need help. It is like a little city with all sorts of people with various roles on board. People from all over the world come to volunteer their time and expertise. It is so well organised and I feel very supported.

‘Each morning the chaplaincy team come into the wards, and there is singing and dancing with African drums. During the evening patients pour out into the hallways where there is singing and dancing African-style. It can be very loud! It is an environment full of joy, love and thankfulness. Prayer is integrated into patient care. At the start of each shift we gather together and our team leader prays.

Serving with Mercy Ships has taken me back to the heart of nursing. There is less paperwork and more quality patient time. It has also challenged me to be more creative with the way I communicate with my patients across culture and language barriers. French is the main language spoken here in Cameroon but there are many other languages also. I try to learn key phrases that I can use, frequently use interpreters (our lovely local day crew), picture pain scales etc. I have also experienced how a smile or warm gesture can go a long way.

The Mercy Ship and her crew feature in the eight-part National Geographic series The Surgery Ship, on SKY Channel 072 beginning Saturday 7 April, at 6.30pm. For more information and behind the scenes stories, return to the homepage.

Around 40 New Zealanders volunteer with Mercy Ships every year for weeks, months and even years at a time working in medical, maritime and operational capacities.  To see the incredible results of the work of these hidden Kiwis heroes, watch The Surgery Ship.

Thanks to the Te Awamutu Courier for publishing Melanie’s story

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New Zealand (Demo)

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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New Zealand (Demo)

Just hours before his farewell speech from Parliament, former New Zealand Prime Minister John Key took the time to share what he thinks about Mercy Ships. “For almost 40 years volunteers have been helping the poorest people …”

John Key endorses Mercy Ships

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