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Life Changing Time on a Hospital Ship

By worldview
Created 16 Jul 2008 - 16:09

“As I left Australia to spend three and a half months on a hospital ship in one of the world’s poorest nations I had no idea what was ahead of me,” says Abbey Rowe of Brisbane.


Abbey Rowe

Abbey of the Brisbane suburb of Mansfield says she put her life on hold as a pharmacy assistant for what turned out to be a life changing experience serving among more than 400 volunteers from around the world on the world’s largest non-governmental hospital ship operated by the international Christian charity, Mercy Ships.

“Even though I work as a pharmacy assistant, I chose to work in the ship’s dining room, serving food to the crew, all of them volunteers like myself.   It was doing something I liked while I was at school and working part-time in a café, and I knew it would be something I would enjoy during the time I was onboard the Africa Mercy for part of the ship’s year-long assignment to the West African nation of Liberia.”

“Just getting there was also an experience.   All of the volunteers have to pay their own way to and from Africa as well as pay crew fees while onboard to help offset the costs of running the ship and to ensure that all medical and community development services are provided without charge to people who will never be in a position to pay for them.  I had to put in a lot of hard work raising the money I needed to go.  A few close friends, family members and work colleagues helped, and I had to pick up another job to raise more funds.”

Abbey describes the whole experience as something of an ‘eye opener’.  “It made me realise that we take so much of life in Australia for granted.  We have so much.   After looking at the people of Liberia and the little they have, I think it is the little things we should appreciate more.”

“There was plenty to do as well as the work in the dining room.   In my spare time and on my days off I worked at a local orphanage in the country’s capital Monrovia.   At Mother Matu’s Orphanage, I was able to play and spend time with children who were aged from two to 18 years of age.   Apart from those activities, other crew members and I painted the orphanage school.  We spent about eight hours a week painting four classrooms.   The work made the orphanage a brighter and more exciting place for the children to be in.”

“I grew very close to some of those children.  It was very hard to say goodbye, but I believe the little time I was able to spend with them brought a smile to their faces, and in some small way I had helped to make a difference in their lives.  That was also the experience of the other crew members who spent time there.”
 “The three and a half months went so quickly.  Now I am back to normal life in Brisbane, I will always remember the time I spent in Liberia and the people I met.   There’s a part of me that says it is not the last time I will be going to Africa with Mercy Ships.   God has shown me so much, and I have learnt so much.   I really believe I will return to play a part in what the amazing doctors and nurses are doing to bring hope and healing to the poor, as well as all of the rest of the volunteers working in a whole range of projects aimed at helping to bring people out of poverty and giving them hope for the future.”

Abbey sums it all up as an ‘unreal experience’. Mercy Ships has operated hospital ships in developing nations since 1978.   Following the example of Jesus, Mercy Ships brings hope and healing to the poor, mobilizing people and resources worldwide.

Mercy Ships offers a range of health and community development services free of charge.  Highly skilled surgeons on board the ships perform thousands of operations each year to correct disability, disfigurement and blindness.   Medical and dental teams travel the countries and establish clinics to provide vaccination programs, dental treatment and basic health care for those with no access to these facilities.  Local community health workers receive training in hygiene, nutrition and disease prevention.

Mercy Ships builds hospitals, clinics, training facilities and basic housing where none exist.   Agricultural projects help replenish livestock in war-torn areas and boost food production.   Working in partnership with local people, Mercy Ships empowers communities to help themselves.    The result is a way out of poverty.

The emphasis is on the needs of the world’s poorest nations in West Africa, where the hospital ship Africa Mercy provides the platform for services extending up to ten months at a time.  A permanent land-based program operates in Sierra Leone, while teams also work in several nations of Central America and the Caribbean.  Mercy Ships has 14 support offices around the world, including the Australian office at Caloundra on Sunshine Coast. [1]

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