The HOPE (Hospital Out Patient Extension) Center is the Mercy Ships facility where we care for our patients before and after surgery. This allows the hospital to conduct more life changing surgeries by freeing up bed spaces. The patients and their caregivers stay at the HOPE Center while continuing to receive out-patient care and physical therapy back at the ship.
At the HOPE Center we have Day Crew teams that clean the facility, serve the food, and transport the patients to and from the ship along with many other duties.
One day while the Facilitators and I played Dominoes with the patients, we had a conversation with one of the plastic patients, a young man from Mahajanga.
He told us that he was studying tourism at the university, but because of his long stay at the HOPE Center receiving therapy after surgery, he missed his practicum and final exams. He spoke good English and said that he would love to work for Mercy Ships as Day Crew at the HOPE Center.
We had an open position so we interviewed him and a week later he joined the team. Since he was from Mahajanga, he didn’t have a place to stay but two of the HOPE Center Day Crew graciously offered for him to move in with them.
He not only received hope and healing from his surgery, but he received a new job too. Meet Dominique, once a patient, now serving Mercy Ships and the people of Madagascar.
*After the Africa Mercy departs, Dominique will return to the university to finish his studies.
Story by Martha Rodriguez, HOPE Center Manager
From our volunteers to our donors to our national office staff and board members, each individual plays an important role in making sure Mercy Ships stays afloat and is able to continue to provide free life changing health care to those in need.
Mercy Ships Canada board member Dr. Sherif Emil recently spoke with CBC about his upcoming visit to Tamatave, Madagascar where he will join the Africa Mercy’s crew and work in the Operating Room for three weeks.
Listen to the interview below
To learn more about Dr. Emil’s work and involvement in Montreal watch “A Week in the Life of Dr. Sherif Emil at The Montreal Children’s Hospital”
Four-year-old Jean sits quietly outside his home. He takes in the sights and sounds of the village children playing football. He watches as the kids excitedly cheer for the goal that has just been scored. And he yearns for the day that he can take part in the games.
Sadly, Jean is never invited to play. He suffers from a condition known as bowed legs – an orthopedic defect that makes his legs O-shaped. Normal, everyday childhood activities such as running, climbing stairs and jumping are very difficult.
Jean is often found alone playing a small keyboard – a gift his father, Theodore, purchased in a local market to ease his son’s isolation. Jean instantly took a liking to the instrument and spends hours making the best music he can. To his parents, Jean’s music is beautiful … like that of a classically trained composer.
Jean’s father is a farmer, and his main crops are the African staple, cassava, and rice. He was able to afford a small keyboard, but the cost of fixing Jean’s legs is far more than he makes in a single year. The family lives in an isolated region of Madagascar, ideal for farming, but where constant rains repeatedly wash out the roads, isolating the village from more developed areas where medical care is more accessible.
The situation appeared to be hopeless until Jean’s family heard the announcement that gave them a reason to hope once again. Mercy Ships was offering a free screening in their community. Jean could be evaluated for a free orthopedic surgery!
Many villagers weren’t sure whether to believe that the surgeries were really being offered for free, but Theodore immediately embraced hope. He said, “If it is on the national radio, it must be true. They wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true.”
So, Theodore took Jean to the screening, and they received a yellow patient card – Jean’s ticket to the Africa Mercy and his only hope for straight legs. Onboard the Africa Mercy, Dr. Frank Haydon, a volunteer orthopedic surgeon from the United States, evaluated Jean and approved him for surgery. Six weeks after surgery, the little boy’s casts were removed, and he walked for the first time on his straightened legs.
Jean spent three months onboard the Africa Mercy and in the Mercy Ships HOPE Center, where patients recover after their surgeries. For the first time in his life, other kids wanted to play with him. The compassion and mercy of the all-volunteer crew made a lasting impression on Theodore, who has struggled with how to raise a son with physical limitations. “It has not been easy up until now, but we have been shown a lot of kindness here,” he said.
Now Theodore looks forward to returning home and watching Jean play football. And he will also encourage his son to share kindness with others just as they’ve been shown kindness. Along with new possibilities for the future, Theodore imagines that music will continue to be a part of Jean’s future … just as his experience onboard the hospital ship will always be a major part of his story.
Story by Tanya Sierra
Valentine’s Day is approaching and love is in the air…
There is also something in the water at Mercy Ships! Since 1978 the fleet of ships have often been called the “Love Boats” one, because the ships provide free life changing medical care to thousands of people and two, many of our volunteers have found a person onboard to one day call their husband or wife. Over 350 documented couples have met and married as a result of their time onboard a “love boat,” 40+ of these couples (or at least one half) are Canadian!
A life-long partner is not something most go looking for when they sign up to serve with Mercy Ships, but as it has been said, to come upon love without seeking it is the only way to find it.
Heather and Marcus Christ, from Saint John New Brunswick (and Germany), are the 132nd couple to have met onboard, and have been married 18 years.
“The moment we remember meeting was in mid-1994; the ship had sent me to Germany to help at Humedica for part of the summer while construction on the Anastasis was completed in Philadelphia. Marcus was standing at the airport arrivals with a sign saying ‘Mercy Ships’ on it, and drove me from Munich to Kaufbeuren that day. We went on our first ‘date’ that night” Heather recalls.
Steve and Julia Kehler, from Victoria, British Columbia are the 200th couple, married now for 10 years.
“Funny how things bring life your way” Steve recalls, “I wanted to go on an adventure, and had only been to the ocean once. I thought, what was one of the crazier things I could do? Jump on a ship to Africa!”
“I worked at reception, I remember seeing him walk by quite often and I was curious who he was. One evening I was in the lounge with some friends, Sonny walked by strumming a guitar and I called him over to hang out with us. We bonded instantly” Tabitha tells us.
For Sonny, it may have been love at first sight…
“I saw Tabby when I walked by reception, I was grumpy because a garbage bag burst on me, I remember looking up and seeing her smiling at me” says Sonny.
“I definitely did not anticipate meeting someone, but am extremely happy I did!” exclaims Tabitha. “I on the other hand had a feeling I might meet someone” says Sonny.
The two got married in the summer of 2014 and now live in Australia together! In addition to finding a life-long partner, the Tabitha and Sonny have experienced a great personal change since their service.
“It gave me a direction for my future, and I am now looking at pursuing optometry or ophthalmology” explains Tabitha.
“It’s hard to find the right words, but Mercy Ships gave me an internal peace that I did not have before” says Sonny.
The latest Canadians to tie the knot are Derek Wiens from Elmira, Ontario and Alice Powell from Saanich, British Columbia. Derek met his wife Elisabeth, from Norway onboard while volunteering with the charity in Madagascar, the two got married in the Nordic country in the summer of 2015.
Alice, who lived onboard the Africa Mercy for three years met her husband Teko in Togo, West Africa, they said their nuptials in September and have since returned to Canada and are living on Vancouver Island.
Mercy Ships is definitely not running a match-making business on the side, but the experience does introduce volunteers to like-minded, single, men and women who share the same values and purpose of wanting to give their love and help people. This love often comes full circle and has resulted in many finding a life-long partner.
“I think for everyone who has had this experience, 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago, it never leaves us, we will always carry a little bit of it with us, never forgetting” says Steve.
And that is a wonderful thing to share with your husband or wife.
Happy Valentine’s Day! (more…)
Her bilateral cleft palate left her face severely disfigured. Haingo was almost seven months old and weighed a fragile 2.2kg (less than 5 lbs) when she was admitted with her mother Viviaby to the Africa Mercy ward. She immediately began the infant feeding program (IFP).
Every few hours – around the clock – Haingo was fed milk and supplements with an oral syringe by nurses who rocked her and prayed. Within days the tiny baby stopped her constant crying, she stopped frowning and her mother slept soundly for the first time in many months.
Little by little, the tide was turned and Haingo began to gain weight. Viviaby began to believe her precious daughter would survive. In 10 days Haingo’s health had stabilised enough for Viviaby to relocate to the Hospital Outpatients (HOPE) Centre and mother and daughter began frequent visits to the IFP dietitian.
Jillian helped Viviaby understand how to effectively feed her baby, and provided her with the supplies and equipment she needed. Haingo’s gradual weight gain was monitored and celebrated. Mother and baby relaxed into a nurturing environment.
Haingo began to reach her developmental milestones as her slowly growth progressed. Jillian and Viviaby worked together week after week, reaching towards twin goals. When Haingo weighed 3.5kg she would be strong enough to have surgery to restore her cleft lip, but she had to be ten months to have surgery to restore her palate.
The scales were tipping. Haingo’s steadily gained weight in the five months since her admission to Mercy Ships (weighing 2.2 kg at 6.5 months old). Her health blossomed. She began to sit up, sprouted teeth, started waving goodbye and played peek-a-boo. Each milestone was a gift to Viviaby, who had feared for her daughter’s life. The proud Malagasy mumma simply beamed when chubby Haingo hit the ‘normal weight for height’ milestone by Christmas. Haingo was thriving.
The day of Haingo’s cleft lip and palate surgery finally arrived. Viviaby glowed as she carried her daughter out of the recovery room after the operation. “She is beautiful!” was all Viviaby managed to say. She was overwhelmed at the complete transformation. “She doesn’t look like the same baby!”
The clefts that marred Haingo’s face are gone; however the truly life-changing difference is not easily seen. Haingo is hardly recognizable, and her life is full of promise.