This Christmas give someone the incredible gift of a restored life. Many patients will be waiting to have surgery or recovering from surgery onboard the Africa Mercy this Christmas with more patients walking up the gangway in the New Year.
Without your help, many people would continue to live a very hard life with a bleak future. However, we are so happy to be able to say that with such amazing support, one by one lives are changed and the futures of not only the individual but those connected to that individual will be changed.
For the month of December, your gift will be MATCHED, which means you will make twice the impact and help twice as many patients, patients like little Faith, who at just 3 years old, was badly burned when a candle fell and lit her bed on fire. Thankfully, Faith lived and because of donors and volunteers, Faith was admitted for surgery onboard the Africa Mercy in September and is now recovering from her surgery.
Give the gift of a transformed life this Christmas, and help patients like Faith get the help they need.DOUBLE YOUR GIFT TODAY!
Australian Harriet Gall could be considered “the hostess with the mostest,” as Harriet’s background unveils a woman with many talents. From primary school teacher to adult instructor, with passions in safety, outdoor skills and survival, this “hostess” can probably handle – or teach – almost anything.
At her usual day job back home in Australia, she’s the Aviation Safety Instructor for a major airline, educating pilots and aircraft crew in everything they need to know about emergency situations, including security, fires, depressurizations, survival, evacuation and more. So how did Harriet end up working in the hospitality department on a hospital ship in West Africa?
“My job back at home offers a three-month service leave after 10 years, so I was looking for something to do. When I saw the 60 Minutes Surgery Ship documentary about Mercy Ships, I thought, ‘That’s what I need to do!’ – and it all just fell together.” Harriet browsed through the broad range of job descriptions online – medical and non-medical, all with different lengths of service. She decided to do something a bit unrelated to her field of work, yet would still fit her personality well. “I love working with people, and I thought this would be a great job where I’d see a really diverse range of activities as well as people in the community on board the ship. I also wanted insight into all the different departments that make up the ship.” The hostess position required six months of service, so she applied, using the rest of her personal holiday time to make up the difference.
Teaching, one of Harriet’s many talents, still comes in handy as she orients new crew members: “I take pride in trying to make people feel welcome and immediately comfortable being on board the ship. A lot of people come from a long way…they’ve spent months if not years preparing to come on board. It can be a very emotional time, so I want them to fit in and feel comfortable as quickly as possible. If I can facilitate that for them, I think it’s a huge part of my role.”
With the majority of Harriet’s day-to-day focused on the crew, patient interactions still happen in other ways. During routine tours of the ship, she guides new crew through the hospital wards, a place where some of her fondest memories have been made. “During ship tours, we walk the length of ship, down past the hospital wards. More often than not there are young children, all bandaged up with different conditions, smiling and laughing. Most times, you get a big “Bonsoir!!” and a smile and a high five. That’s definitely the highlight of my day.”
What would Harriet say to someone thinking of signing up with Mercy Ships? “Don’t even think – just come – 100%!” She adds, “There are so many people here, serving out of love. Every single person on this ship is beautiful. They find the good in things, and everyone generally goes out of their way to help each other.”
And Harriet’s no different. Thank you Harriet, for sharing your remarkable self with every crew member you meet.
Seidjolo Quenum is six months pregnant with her second child. A native of West Africa, she acted as translator for the Neonatal Resuscitation course recently held onboard the Africa Mercy. “Maybe it’s because I am a mother,” she says, “But this course is vital! A baby is not like a car – you can’t learn by making mistakes!”
10% of newborns worldwide need help breathing. “In low-resource countries, these babies would be considered dead at birth,” says Amy Jones, Program Manager for the AFM Medical Capacity Team. “There would be no hope for them.”
But with the methods taught during the one-day Neonatal Resuscitation course (which by the way, require very few resources that West African hospitals don’t already have), midwives can now save many of these cast-aside babies. “And this is just the start,” says Amy. Many additional midwives will participate in this one-day course in the coming months.SUPPORT OUR PROGRAMS TODAY
The Mercy Ships Nutritional Agriculture Program (Food for Life) aims to increase the capacity of local agriculturists through sustainable farming and agropastoral practices. A healthy diet is the first step to proper health.
We recognize that people need more than just access to healthcare, but also access to nutritious food to obtain such health. Since 1997, Mercy Ships has encouraged people to discover significantly improved methods of food production – working with them to rebuild, restore, and renew their lives, land, communities and nations through holistic, organic agriculture development. Farming practices in much of West Africa do more harm than good.
Mercy Ships seek to help its agriculture participants understand how greenhouse gases work in the atmosphere, how these greenhouse gasses are increased by slash and burn practices, and how this affects their crops, health, and nutrition. Slash and burn, pesticides, herbicides, and others lead to the production of poor harvests and deplete the soil’s nutrient levels, leaving behind infertile ground.]
Food for Life:
The Nutritional Agriculture Program (Food for Life) works in conjunction with the Africa Mercy’s 10-month deployment schedule to provide training and resources in countries served by Mercy Ships. In this project, Mercy Ships will train trainers who serve with local NGOs in Benin. These experts will then possess the knowledge and skills to train others in organic farming techniques that can improve nutrition, provide a business, and offer a sustainable response to environmental deterioration.NeedsOver half of Benin’s population relies on agriculture to maintain their livelihoods.
Agriculture in Benin:
• Agriculture makes up a large part of Benin’s economy with cotton alone making up 40% of the country’s GDP and over 80% of their export revenue. To facilitate the production of cotton, dangerous pesticides were used which caused damage to human health and environmental degradation. Today, there is a push to use more organic methods to protect both human health and the environment.
• Not only is the environment being harmed by these practices, a 2013 study by the World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that 11% of the Beninese population is moderate and severely food insecure and 34% have limited or poor food consumption. Adding to this, 32% of children six to 59 months suffer from chronic malnutrition.
• About two-thirds of Benin’s population is dependent on farming (i.e. beans, maize, and yams) with maize being the primary crop and the most profitable. Although the relationship between environmental practices and Beninese food insecurity has not been established, these issues can still affect the overall health of Benin’s population.
Goal of the Food for Life Project:
• To improve food security in Benin by increasing the farming capacity of partner NGOs and provide training for Food for Life participants and agriculture workers at a local orphanage.
• 25 – 35 participants will be mentored and trained from local NGOs serving in Benin during a 22-week course. Participants intern with poor families to apply their knowledge on climate-oriented agriculture. This includes the implementation of an Agroforestry system – fruit trees in association with vegetables.
• The assisted families are able to improve the quality of their farming methods to produce organically sustainable fruits and vegetables and help reduce their vulnerability to climate change.
• Families are able to adapt positively to changes in their climate by initiating new ideas to increase their Agroforestry system.Assist partners in setting up demonstration gardens for agriculture training programs.
The importance of food safety and nutritional security as it relates to health and the transmission of disease:
• The course addresses climate change, how such change affects the agricultural sector, and methods to adapt to and mitigate such effects. Facilitators further identify and discourage destructive practices such as slash-and-burn tactics and the use of harsh, expensive chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
• After receiving an understanding of the impact of climate change on the farming activities, the facilitators show different actions that could help reduce poverty and at the same time protect the soil from degradation through REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and ForestDegradation).
• Many farmers each year destroy forests because they are looking for new land to cultivate, while they forget to replenish depleted soil nutrients. Such practices lead to forest reduction.Business PracticesAlongside organic agriculture techniques, facilitators provide instruction in proper business practices and communication for development
• Facilitators engage in Participatory ActionResearch (PAR) approach to communicate development principles. The training thus emphasizes how participants can help their communities identify the challenges they face in their traditional agricultural activities and techniques, and together identify (and therefore ‘own’) innovative means to improve ecological sustainability and yield increase. In particular, the team emphasizes how micro-credit can help build businesses.
• Towards the end of the course, participants also create a business plan indicating how they intend to apply the course material in their respective NGOs.
• Mercy Ships uses the Participatory Action Research theory to empower and lead people to increased control over their lives. It seeks to understand and improve the world by sharing the power with persons being researched; therefore, the researched become the researchers and cease to be objects and become partners.
• PAR seeks to understand the local practices, situations, contexts, and challenges while actively involving locals into the research process. In cooperation with Fondation Espace Afrique, facilitators identify five very poor farming families in a community not far from the site. In an internship-style format, participants meet with these local farming families and discuss different aspects concerning their agricultural activities as per the training they received during theFood for Life (FFL) program.
What happens when the Africa Mercy leaves Benin?
• The Agriculture Program Manager with local partners and agriculturalists on a monthly basis and conducts follow-up visits 6-12 months after the ship’s departure. The Program Manager will also examine what the participants learned to bring change into their lives and the lives of others (i.e. new farming methods, creating a business plan).
• Long-term indicators of success Evaluation occurs one to two years after the ship’s departure. Participants continue to implement the knowledge and skills learned. NGOs are able to report on the numbers of people trained and the amount of food grown by the new training participants.
Last month Mercy Ships Canada launched its first ever Peer-to-Peer Online Fundraising Platform, which gives Mercy Ships supporters from across the country a way to support our mission by holding their own fundraisers. Bake Sales, Dance-A-Thons, Speaking Events – the sky is the limit, and so is the dedication, generosity and creativity of our fundraisers!
One of our first fundraisers, Bonnie Charron from Ottawa, ON, held her first event on Halloween to raise funds and awareness for Mercy Ships!
“As a proud supporter of Mercy Ships Canada, I wanted to bring Mercy Ships’ special mission to the attention of my co-workers. Halloween offered the perfect opportunity for me to sponsor a gift basket of Halloween items (candy, office decorations, a fancy mask, etc.) and raffle it off – any co-worker making a donation in person or online had their name added to the draw. I also provided each donor with a small Halloween treat bag with a few candies and a Mercy Ships Air Miles card inside! Some of the words expressed when co-workers heard about the work of Mercy Ships were “amazing”, “incredible”, “heart-warming”, “wow” etc.
It was so gratifying to hear people discover Mercy Ships for the first time. For a small contribution from me (around $25 for the gift basket and treats), we raised over $150 for Mercy Ships. The dollars are important, but the goal of the fundraiser was really awareness – I hope that some have been inspired to become monthly donors and/or to use their Air Miles card regularly. With the holiday season coming up, I encouraged many to carry it in their wallets and use it at least once when out doing their holiday shopping. I was really pleased with the response and will be looking for more opportunities to hold these types of awareness-building fundraisers as I move through my volunteer and professional circles in the coming months.”
-Bonnie Oakes Charron