• Transforming Your University or College Experience

    Transforming Your University or College Experience

    Uvic ClubAs a University or College student school is top priority. Hours will be spent in lectures, libraries and all-night cafes pouring over the pages and pages of readings and assignments professors hand out. However, when students look back at their post-secondary careers they will have more than just memories of studying.

    University/College is a time for students to make new friendships, learn more about themselves and discover what their passions are.

    For Myles, a student at the University of Victoria, his passion for helping others came through exposure to the incredible works of Mercy Ships.

    After being told by family about a hospital ship providing free life saving surgeries to those in need he knew he had to get involved. He says “Just like any other exciting thing, when you first hear about it, all you want to do is share it with everyone you meet.” All he needed was to find people to share with.

    This is where the Mercy Ships Campus Network came into play. One of the first things he did when starting at the University of Victoria was sign up to be a member of the Mercy Ships Club. He became part of a nationwide network of campus clubs extremely passionate about helping transform the lives of the world’s poor. His club and the clubs across Canada meet regularly to discuss upcoming events, creative fundraising ideas or to learn more about what is happening on the ship.

    While the clubs primary goals are to bring awareness and raise funds for Mercy Ships, the opportunity the clubs present goes much deeper. As club leader at the University of Victoria Myles explains “Not only is it a great way to make enduring friendships, but it’s a chance to develop leadership and communication skills in a more relaxed and fun setting.” Fun is a key component of the campus clubs. It is the social and fun aspect of the clubs that creates lasting memories. We encourage members to get to know one another, run events that will be enjoyable for everyone and foster a welcoming atmosphere.

    Amidst the craziness of school, the Mercy Ships club provides meaning to a University experience. As Myles reflects on his time with the Mercy Ships Campus Network he says “it’s nice to know that between your Lectures and midterms you’ve managed, in your own small way, to help bring hope and healing to someone who needs it.”

    Would you or someone you know be interested in joining a club or starting their own chapter at their University or College? If so, please send an email to campus.network@mercyships.ca We are always looking to bring on new clubs across Canada!

  • Muriella’s Dream of Making a Difference

    Muriella’s Dream of Making a Difference

    Muriella stood out in the screening crowd as a beautiful 17-year-old girl.  From the left side she looked like a normal teenager with long hair and trendy clothes.  Then she turns to the right, and the reason she was seeking surgery was obvious.

    © 2016 Mercy Ships, Photo Credit Ruben Plomp;

    © 2016 Mercy Ships, Photo Credit Ruben Plomp;

    When Muriella was seven, a cyst began to develop inside of her cheek.  At first she was not concerned about the small lump, but it continued to grow and eventually the growth was the size of a tennis ball. Soon Muriella was an unwilling center of attention, subjected to mockery from other kids she used to call friends and others in the village, who didn’t want her near them.

    As the lump increased in size, it relentlessly forced her cheek outward. Going to high school became more and more traumatic for Muriella. In fact, she changed schools twice in three years because her classmates did not want to sit next to her or have anything to do with her.  When she came home after school she would cry as she prepared dinner for her sisters and her mother.

    Muriella’s family has struggled to make ends meet since her father passed away. Her mother works long hours in a factory to support her three daughters and to pay for them to go to school. They live in a small upstairs apartment with two rooms. In one room they cook, eat and sleep. In the other tiny room is a sofa, two chairs and an old television. On the bare wall hangs a picture of a young, pretty, happy girl – a girl without a tumor. “I was hoping one day that would be me again,” said Muriella.

    © 2016 Mercy Ships, Photo Credit Ruben Plomp;

    © 2016 Mercy Ships, Photo Credit Ruben Plomp;

    Muriella is a dedicated student, with a dream to study law. She is determined to advocate for the poor who are imprisoned and cannot afford legal representation. Her passion is to see justice provided for the defenseless.

    But the relentless growth and the emotional issues it caused were threatening that dream.  Muriella was failing important exams, distracted by her devastating condition. Her hopes and dreams for the future were in jeopardy, and so was her life if the facial tumor continued to grow.

    Australian nurse Naomi Reid first encountered Muriella at the patient screening as she lined up in the early morning hours with hundreds of others, all seeking help. Naomi recalls the moment she told Muriella the longed-for news: that Mercy Ships would provide a free surgery to remove her cyst. It seemed as though a little bit of life was instantly breathed back into Muriella. She now clung to her hopes that she would have a future after all.

    A new chapter of Muriella’s life began as she and her mother traveled to the coast to the Africa Mercy. Volunteer surgeons examined Muriella and reassured her, “We’re going to help you, so you can go back to school.”  A week later, after a CAT scan and a multitude of testing onboard the hospital ship, Muriella walked to the operating room to receive her free surgery. Nervous and excited, she realized this was going to change all her tomorrows.

    © 2016 Mercy Ships, Photo Credit Ruben Plomp

    © 2016 Mercy Ships, Photo Credit Ruben Plomp

    The transformation in Muriella was dramatic and immediate. After the surgery she was eager to go back to school, ready to get back on track for the future she dreamed of.  Overnight, she was no longer an outcast, no longer the subject of shame and ridicule.

    Through a relatively small procedure, Muriella’s life story changed. Instead of a sad ending, she is beginning a new chapter ready and able to work toward her hopes and dreams.

    As she prepares to sit her exams for university, it seems like her dream to be a voice for the voiceless is destined to come true.  The gift that donors and volunteers gave to Muriella is one that will keep on giving to others in need.

  • Specialty Focus: Women’s Health

    Specialty Focus: Women’s Health
    ©2016 Mercy Ships

    ©2016 Mercy Ships

    One of the much-needed specialties that Mercy Ships provides is surgery for obstetric fistula (OBF). Women who suffer with this have endured prolonged, obstructed labor which creates an opening between the bladder and vagina, resulting in uncontrollable, continuous leakage of urine and sometimes stool.

    In most cases, because the labor goes on for multiple days, their babies often die in the birth canal and so not only do these women grieve the loss of their newborns, they are also often deserted by their husbands and shunned in their communities due to the leakage and odor. The emotional toll is heavy. And when women like Florine and Fanjaleky come to the ship, they feel dejected and distraught from so much loss. In her own words, she explains, “Every day was really sad, and I worried that I would die. I was scared.” Fortunately Mercy Ships offers both the surgery and the emotional support for these women to rise up out of sadness and find their sense of purpose and joy. OBF surgery, in most cases, stops the leakage and enables them to live normal lives again. To see their smiles where there was once only sadness and despair is a truly lovely thing.

    Photo Credit Justine Forrest, VVF Dress Ceremony preparationsFlorine’s Sadness Transformed

    To listen to Florine tell her story is heart-wrenching. Behind the lovely smile, there lies a lot of loss. At the age of 39 she shares a history of six failed pregnancies- two miscarriages and four babies that died at childbirth. Having struggled with these losses and the difficult challenges of an obstetric fistula for 25 years, it is no wonder that this sweet woman walked five days from her village to the capital city in the center of Madagascar in search of Mercy Ships. When she arrived only to find that the Africa Mercy was not there, she tried to raise money to get back home and contracted malaria in the process. Were it not for the kindness of a local villager who took her in and helped get her to where the Africa Mercy was docked, Florine may never have found us. On the ship she received the help and support she needed and while initially the surgeons were concerned that her surgery may not be successful, afterward they reported that it went quite well and Florine’s smile has never been brighter.

    Hoanaky’s Healing

    MGC160725_FANJAKELY_SIDE_BY_SIDE_WEEKLY_SCOOP_LO_RESHoanaky was in labor for four agonizing days in her Malagasy village. Her prolonged, obstructed delivery resulted in the loss of her baby and an injury that would leave her permanently incontinent at age 26. Isolated, ashamed, and afraid, she stayed close to her mother until eventually they heard about a Mercy Ships fistula clinic. Through surgery and the support of many of our medical staff, Hoanaky found a place to heal both emotionally and physically. We celebrate her and many other women who courageously come to the ship and work through the healing process to find hope on the other side.

    Help Transform a Woman’s Life


  • Specialty Focus: General Surgery- Goiters

    Specialty Focus: General Surgery- Goiters
    ©2016 Mercy Ships

    ©2016 Mercy Ships

    Under the general surgery focus, Mercy Ships provides treatment for people who suffer from goiters. Often a growth that looks to be the size of a baseball or large grapefruit, goiters occur when either too much or too little thyroid hormone is produced, causing the thyroid gland to be enlarged.

    This can result in health problems, such as weight loss or gain, tracheal deviation, and choking sensations when lying flat, making sleeping and speaking difficult.

    Risk factors for goiters are higher for women and when they come to screening. Many women wear scarves around their necks to avoid the stares and insults.

    Thankfully Mercy Ships provides surgery to treat people like Serafine whose goiter began as a small lump but then continued to grow for 34 years. Now she is free of the discomfort (and the scarf)!

    Change a Life like Serafine’s Today!
  • Isabelle’s Journey

    Isabelle’s Journey

    Isabelle lives in a small village in the mountains of Northern Madagascar. There is no doctor or medical clinic nearby, so when Isabelle’s face began to hurt and swell a year ago, there was no one to turn to for help.   “I had a toothache, and I thought it was my tooth swelling. But it kept getting bigger and bigger, and it didn’t stop” she recalls.

    ©2016 Mercy Ships - Isabelle (MGC09588) before surgery

    The side of her face become more and more disfigured, and eventually a large lump formed on her right cheek.   Then her life began to change.

    Isabelle was banned from school when her teacher told her “You cannot come here because of your face.”  She was made an outcast by others in her village, who would call to her “Don’t come near! I don’t want your disease!”

    Isabelle was living in fear and pain every day, remembering “I was afraid and was praying to God asking, ‘What is this problem? Why is it growing?’”

    © 2016 Mercy Ships, Photo Credit Ruben Plomp;

    Isabelle spent 2 weeks onboard the Africa Mercy

    Each evening in their small mud-and-thatch hut, Isabelle’s family roll their sleeping mats out on the hard-packed earth floor. They huddle together and listen to radio broadcasts – a lifeline for an isolated community.  One night Isabelle heard something on the radio that changed her life. She recounts “It said those who have diseases, Mercy Ships is doing free surgery. Don’t hesitate to come.”

    As her father was away and her mother had just given birth to a baby girl, Isabelle and her older brother set off for the Mercy Ships patient screening. The siblings walked for two days on the muddy road, stopping at villages for food, water and shelter along the way.

    The long journey was worth their effort. The rapidly growing tumor on Isabelle’s face was examined at the patient screening location, and she was given a date to arrive at the Mercy Ship for free surgery to remove the tumor. This time, her big sister accompanied her as she traveled from the middle of the island down to the coast. Isabelle caught her first glimpse of the ocean and the hospital ship that would change her life.

    ©2016 Mercy Ships - Photo Credit Catrice Wulf -

    The visible swelling was only one third of the tumor. The hidden part of the growth relentlessly pushed up behind her eye, back into her cranial cavity, and was embedded down in the right side of her upper jaw. Isabelle and her family were unaware that without specialized surgery her expanding facial deformity could eventually make Isabelle blind in one eye.

    A month after she was first examined, Isabelle received her free surgery. Maxillofacial specialist and Chief Medical Officer, Dr Gary Parker, and another surgeon, Dr Leo Chen, performed a series of complex procedures that removed the tumor and every piece of bone that it had begun to devour. They then used bone and muscle grafts to carefully reconstruct her face, cheekbone and eye socket, rebuild the right half of her upper jaw and remodeled the side of her nose. They also transferred muscle to restore her cheek and complete her nose.

    Just two weeks after surgery, Isabelle was ready to go home.  She returned to her village with stories of the ocean, having her fingernails painted and her picture taken for the first time.  With the source of her pain and suffering gone, Isabelle is now back at school, welcomed by her friends and community.

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