Hope to the hopeless

Healing the heart of Africa


The queues wind on for miles around the dusty port of Conakry, Guinea. From afar, it might look like a procession of ants, but as you get closer, you’re confronted by the reality of the thousands upon thousands of people waiting in line. These are people waiting in hope, rather than expectation.

Many of these people have travelled for miles on foot in order to be screened by Mercy Ships, in hope of receiving the help on offer. For these people, it is worth the journey no matter how slim their chances.

Living in the UK, sometimes the issues further afield seem out of our reach. But every now and then the image of those people in Africa hits you, whether it’s an advert on the train or a news report. If only there were something you could do…

What is Mercy Ships?

Mercy Ships is a floating hospital, founded in 1978 by a Christian couple. It runs on the vision of providing services, mainly healthcare, to some of the poorest places in the world. To date it has served more than 70 countries, helping in excess of 2 million people.

Approximately 50% of the population of Africa has no access to a hospital or doctor, and Guinea is one of the least developed countries in the world. Ranking 178 out of 187 on the UN Human Development Index, this is where Mercy Ships is currently based.

“In 2010, Guinea held its first democratic election, following 24 years under a dictator and 2 years under military control,” a spokesperson for Mercy Ships says. The President of Guinea is now both head of state and head of government and Mercy Ships have returned to the country following his personal request.

What do they do?

As a result of trying to fill this gap, the ship spends months in a port at any time, the volunteers work on land and from the ship, which has 6 operating theatres and capacity for 78 in-patients.

Rosie Timms, describes a particularly moving moment while volunteering as an admissions nurse on board. “I think the story of Maumuna was exceptional. I had registered to be a blood donor and one night was notified that a girl was in surgery, needing my blood immediately… No problem.

“Afterwards I met the girl on the ward with her sister. They were so amazed that anyone would give blood to save someone they didn’t even know.” She says.

From outcast to accepted

For many people in Africa, having a disability or illness makes them an outcast, as it’s believed that disabilities are curses from the devil. As a result, many are unable to work to earn money to support themselves and their families. Mercy Ships aims to equip those they help to be able to support themselves in jobs and make money for the future, thus leaving a footprint long after they have left the port.

Ali Herbert with child patient

Volunteers are needed in every area of the ship’s running, from doctors, nurses and surgeons, to cleaners, teachers and technicians. There is something for everyone.

Positions start from as short as two-week to ‘indefinite’ stays, the shorter-term positions being perfect for those wanting to take a career break, gap year, or even just a working holiday.

Mercy Ships offers short and long term positions for anyone over the age of 18. Visit: http://www.mercyships.org/positions/ to read job descriptions and apply.

Money can be given in a number of ways at to a number of different areas of the charity, including sponsoring a crew member. Visit: http://www.mercyships.org/pages/make-a-gift

Visit the online catalogue to give money to specific areas, for example, power the ship for a minute, and other areas such as providing surgical kits.

Image copyright to Mercy Ships


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