In 2009, Emmanuel Essah began working with Mercy Ships in his home country of Benin. He laughs as he remembers how it all started: “I almost didn’t apply: I didn’t think I’d get the job. But at the last minute my mom said to me, ‘Emmanuel, you never know what God has in store for you.’”
She was right: Emmanuel has now spent seven years with Mercy Ships, going from translator, to IT specialist, to advance team, and finally to his dream job: biomedical technician. Today he returns to Benin with a vision and a plan: “I have something in my heart,” he explains, “To improve healthcare services by improving how equipment is maintained.” He will partner with Mercy Ships Medical Capacity Building team to give biomedical training to his fellow Beninese technicians. One day soon he hopes to spread his expertise to all of West Africa.
Emmanuel is curious by nature. From a young age, one field in particular, medicine, captured his imagination: one day, if he worked hard and dreamed big, he would be a doctor, he was sure of it.
Little did he know that his life was about to change: Emmanuel had gotten word that the Africa Mercy would be coming to Benin that year and was in need of translators. He toyed with the idea of applying. Even his employer urged him to go ahead and try, but in the end Emmanuel opted out: “I didn’t think I had enough time to prepare, I didn’t think it was going to work out,” he recalls. As the window of opportunity grew smaller and smaller, Emmanuel stuck resolutely to his plan: not this shot: maybe the next one.
Right before the deadline hit, Emmanuel’s mother stepped in, urging him to apply: “I think you should go,” he recalls her saying, “You don’t know what God has in store for you.”
His mom was right: Emmanuel applied and was hired. He served as day crew on Mercy Ships Dental Team that year, continuing with the ship to Togo in 2010.
Working with the dental team, Emmanuel’s natural curiosity surfaced: equipment was constantly breaking, so he began asking questions. Spurred on by his curiosity and his desire to get the machines back on board, Emmanuel urged Dr. Dag Tvedt, the chief dental officer at the time, to let him take the manuals home. He poured over the material at night, deciphering pages and pages of technical documents. His hard work soon paid off: with no formal training, Emmanuel fixed key equipment, helping the clinic run smoother than it had before.
This did not go without notice: Dr. Tvedt, wowed by Emmanuel’s savvy and initiative, introduced him to Tony Royston, senior biomedical technician on the ship. After seeing Royston work, Emmanuel was in awe: “I knew I wanted to do this.”
After serving two years in the IT department, Emmanuel got his wish: he completed an intensive training in the US, rejoining the ship in January 2014 as a biomedical technician. The work is perfect for him: with more advanced machines replacing older ones every year, he never stops learning. “I love what I’m doing: it’s something I’d dreamed of for three or four years.”
Now Emmanuel has returned to his home country of Benin, again with Mercy Ships, but in a very different role: not only will he serve as a biomedical technician on board, he will also conduct on-land trainings for Beninese technicians. “I have something in my heart,” he explains, “To improve healthcare services by improving how equipment is maintained.”
The first course will focus on safe use of hospital machinery, and from there, who knows. Emmanuel sees a future in bringing advanced biomedical training not only to his own country, but to all of West Africa.
In an arrival ceremony with Benin’s First Lady Madame Talon, Emmanuel leads the procession of Mercy Ship leaders down the gangway. As he presents the nation’s flag to her, he stands tall and resolute.
If you asked Emmanuel if he could have predicted any of this, he would likely laugh, shake his head no, and then pause to gather his response: ‘Not the specifics,’ he would say, ‘But everyone has an amazing story that can unfold if they’ll let it.’
He thinks about that day his mother told him to apply: “I’m glad I took [her] advice,” Emmanuel recounts, laughing. “She’s a pillar in my life, a woman of prayer. She helps me dream bigger.”
The Africa Mercy is a ship full of very talented people. Among these talented people are the ship photographers. For our work to have an impact, we also need to show how we are making an impact visually, which means capturing photos of our patients, training and renovations.
On Saturday, Septeber 24th, we would like to invite those who live in and around Victoria, BC to our FREE event Behind the Faces: Photography Exhibit and Blind Auction which will feature patient portraits taken by various crew photographers, and tell the story that lies behind the face.
There will also be photographs of Africa’s beautiful landscape, taken by Christina Fast, Mercy Ships volunteer and found of Sterile Processing Education Charitable Trust (SPECT) half of the sales from Christina’s prints will go to support SPECT.
What is a blind auction?
Unlike a silent auction where you peruse items and write your name down with a bid, the items will be concealed and only an intriguing description will be attached to it. Potential bidders will base their decision off of these descriptions and bid during a live auction! Roshan Vickery, from Kilshaw’s Auction House will be the auctioneer for the evening and reveal the bidders item/s once going once….going twice….sold has been announced.
Hint: Items will range from getaways to various forms of entertainment to dates to music…
There will also be beer and winesold for those over 19+
When: September 24th from 7PM – 10PM
Where: The Bay Center Gallery 636 Fort St. Victoria, B
Why: To raise awareness and support for Mercy Ships Canada’s projects during the 2016-2017 field service in Cotonou, Benin
A big thank you to our sponsors The Arts Council of Greater Victoria, Hoyne and all of the businesses who have donated services and items (who will be properly thanks afterwards) we look forward to the unveiling!GET YOUR FREE TICKET(S) HERE!
“World Humanitarian Day is an annual reminder of the need to act to alleviate the suffering. It is also an occasion to honour the humanitarian workers and volunteers toiling on the frontlines of crises.”
August 19th is World Humanitarian Day, and we want to take the time to give a big THANK YOU to all our volunteers and donors who truly change the world through their hard work, kindness and generosity. Every day humanitarian aid workers face the front lines of hardship and suffering, dedicating themselves to delivering assistance to those who need it most, while donors around the world support them with their hope and generosity.
World Humanitarian Day recognizes the aid workers and donors around the world who dedicate their time and money to humanitarian service, and mobilizes people to advocate for humanitarian action. This World Humanitarian Day, the UN and its partners are calling for global solidarity with the more than 130 million people around the world who need humanitarian assistance to survive.
Thank you for being a part of the Mercy Ships mission and your commitment to making the world a better place. We couldn’t do it without you.
The Africa Mercy has arrived in Benin for its 2016-2017 field service! Now that we have finally arrived, we can’t wait to start working with our amazing volunteers and donors to bring hope and healing to the Beninese people. Keep reading to learn more about this fascinating nation and why we are working there!
3. Almost 40% of Benin’s population lives below the poverty line. Extreme poverty has had devastating consequences here, for example causing an increase in human trafficking in recent years.
SUPPORT OUR WORK IN BENIN
Mercy Ships is always looking to put itself out of a job: how wonderful would it be if every country we visited had enough safe operating rooms, trained medical staff, and reliable equipment so that patients didn’t need to wait years for treatment on board?
With this dream in mind, our Medical Capacity Building (MCB) program partners with a number of organizations in country working to strengthen the healthcare long after we head to a new port.
MCB provides vital mentoring for doctors, nurses, and technicians, along with donated equipment and renovation projects complete. When asked where the team can make the most impact, Project Manager Krissy Close references the Safe Surgery Initiative as key. As part of the Initiative,
MCB will travel to inland hospitals, teaching proven methods for increasing surgical safety. Many healthcare providers in Benin are hungry for these skills, and Close is optimistic about the potential impact: “What we do is just a drop in the bucket, and the bucket is huge…but science tells us that no matter how long it takes, enough drops will eventually fill the bucket.”
Around five billion people worldwide lack access to safe surgery, and according to a study by the Lancet Commission, almost a third of all deaths in 2010 were caused by conditions requiring surgery. West Africans are in particular need and Mercy Ships seeks to help meet it.