Mercy Ships Canada is celebrating World Blood Day and blood donors around the world! Onboard the world’s largest charity hospital ship, Africa Mercy, the volunteer crew make up the blood bank and play a huge role in saving lives and restoring hope.
The Africa Mercy is crewed by 450 international volunteers; professionals include surgeons, engineers, teachers, cooks and more – all volunteering their time, service, and blood to provide free medical care for the world’s poor!
This past year crew members were vital in saving the life of one particular patient, 60-year-old Sambany from rural Madagascar. Sambany travelled by foot for two days with the burden of a 16.46lb facial tumour to reach the Africa Mercy, in hopes of receiving free surgery.
Surgeons onboard hesitated to operate on Sambany, as the complications which could arise from removing a fifth of his weight were large, but they decided to go ahead with the surgery.
“I knew without surgery I would die. I knew I might die in surgery, but I already felt dead inside from the way I was treated. I chose to have the surgery” said Sambany.
It took 17 selfless donors to keep him alive during his 12 hour surgery, which removed his massive tumour. Kyle Siemens from Kelowna, British Columbia and Media Liason on board, was one of five Canadian donors called to give Sambany blood.
“The medical staff told us that it was really lucky there had been enough donors on the ship – Sambany had lost all of his own blood and was currently running on 100% donated. To know that I have directly helped save someone’s life is amazing” says Kyle.
Sambany has now recovered and returned home to his village where family and friends were in shock after seeing his face without the tumour he had carried for 19 years.
The Africa Mercy spends an average of 10 months in each host country performing surgeries and offering developmental programs and training to locals, completely free of charge. we would not be able to deliver healthcare services to patients like Sambany without the help of our wonderful volunteers!
Her cleft lip makes her feel ugly.
Her older brother, Theo, says she is always touching her nose. When asked why, Banay leans over and whispers into the translator’s ear, “I was ashamed.” It was her way of hiding her face.
Banay is extremely quiet and shy, mainly because she also has a cleft palate. This makes it difficult to eat because food often goes into her nose when she swallows. It can also cause hearing difficulties because the soft palate muscles are connected to the middle ear, increasing the chance of ear infections and potential hearing loss. It has severely limited her ability to produce clear speech. Theo says, “Sometimes we really do not understand what she wants, what she is saying.”
The inability to speak clearly robs Banay of many things that are part of a normal life – things like leaving the house without fear or connecting with people. Banay wants friends, but says that she doesn’t have any. It is hard to build friendships when people can’t understand you.
In Madagascar, the average starting age for school is between four and seven, depending on the region in which someone lives. Banay does not attend school, so she cannot read or write. As a result, her future opportunities are greatly limited.
Nurse Brenda Sossou, from Canada who coordinates the Mercy Ships speech therapy program, says, “With a lot of palate patients, it’s not that they haven’t tried to learn to speak or that they don’t have the intelligence to speak. It’s often that they can’t get their point across clearly enough to be understood. So sometimes, they don’t have the heart to try.”
A free surgery to repair Banay’s cleft lip and palate and subsequent speech therapy exercises have restored Banay’s life.
After only one week, she showed great improvement. Her speech therapy exercises included blowing bubbles to teach her how to control holding air in her mouth, a previously impossible feat which is essential to making sounds.
She also had to make funny faces to strengthen her muscles. Banay certainly knows how to enjoy herself. She was a funny-face-making genius, showcasing many creative arrangements of her facial features. The people who will eventually become her friends are lucky human beings.
As a result of all of this hard work in therapy, Banay is learning to put sounds into words and sentences. She was given an abundant supply of flash cards. Brenda says, “The hope is that if she continues these exercises we have given her, diligently and regularly, she will one day be able to have clear speech.”
Big brother Theo says, “We are very happy because now Banay looks like everyone else. We are also happy that her speech has improved. Thank you very much. We are really impressed at the materials used to fix the clefts. The kindness of the doctors and nurses who took care of Banay – we really appreciated it.”
The most wonderful part of this story is that Banay finally feels beautiful enough to face the world … a world that is now full of possibilities.
Brenda says, “I have a tendency to tell my patients that I look forward to hearing about them becoming the next president, or future doctor, surgeon or lawyer … so I can hear their speech.”
And we are sure that Banay will have a great deal to say!
Give a bigger gift through your employer’s gift matching program!
In April and December, a generous donor matches all gifts made to Mercy Ships. This is a great time to make your gift go even further and make twice the difference.
BUT did you know you might be able to double your gift at any time of the year with an employee gift matching program?
Your employer may have a program to match gifts to the charity of your choice up to a certain amount. How great is that? All it takes is a few clicks an email or a phone call to find out if your company will match your donation!
What is an employer gift matching program?
Companies set up charitable giving programs through which they match employee donations to eligible nonprofits. in support of the causes their employees care about.
Matching gift programs are offered by many Canadian companies, ranging from Campbell Soup Company Ltd to Labatt Breweries of Canada. This is a great way to increase the size of your donation to Mercy Ships!
What companies match employee donations?
Companies across Canada, big and small, established corporations, and start-ups offer matching gift programs. Thousands of Canadians work for companies that match employee donations!
Company gift matching example: TELUS Corporation
Company: TELUS Corporation
Foundation #: 78260000
Matching Gift Form URL: Company Intranet
Matching Gift Guidelines URL: http://community.telus.com/how-we-give/team-member-giving/
Minimum amount matched: CAD0.00
Maximum amount matched: CAD2,500.00
Total per employee: CAD2,500.00
Gift ratio: 1:1
Take advantage of the opportunity to multiply your gift any time of year!
Talk to your company’s Human Resources department and find out if they offer a Matching Gift program. If there is a program already in place, they will provide you with the information you need to match your donation.
If there is not a program in place, discuss the possibility of a Matching Gift program with your company’s Human Resources department. It is a great opportunity to get your employer involved in the international community!
Click HERE to view a list of Canadian companies with a matching gift program.
It was a journey that would take 6 Mercy-Shippers braving around 33 miles and 5 days through rivers and rice fields, hiking up and down approximately 2,500 feet of altitude, driving through mud, canoeing, and much more – but the outcome was worth it. The ‘Fellowship of Sambany’ (as these crew members called themselves) accompanied Sambany, a man whose 7.46 kg tumour volunteer surgeons had removed months ago, and his grandson Flavy, safely home!
Sambany’s Wife Sees Him Without His Tumor For The First Time…
No one we met was as spunky as the woman with the colorful hat, cheeky grin and a thumbs-up always at the ready: Sambany’s wife, Barazafy. She said,
How differently Barazafy feels now. She shares how her heart raced upon seeing her husband for the first time in five months. And then she describes seeing him without his tumour for the first time, “I did not recognize Sambany! … I said, “Is it you?” I was really happy!”
Sambany’s Sister’s Reaction…
We met Sambany’s sister in a village on the way to his home village of Sahanomby. Her emphatic exclamations revealed an astounded woman,
She looked at her brother and said, “You got a second chance.”
Sambany and Barazafy’s first steps onto their home soil were directed straight to the center of their village. There, they prayed. When they had finished, they made their way to a little wooden hut under the amazed and intrigued stares of the other villagers. These people took turns pouring into the hut, where they listened attentively to the tale of a man who they had thought had been dead for months and gaped at the photographic evidence of his experience.
Radio, Dance, Celebration!
Sambany’s journey began with a radio (where he heard about Mercy Ships), and it will end with a radio. Throughout our trek, the mountains of Madagascar were filled with tunes blasting from his radio (including ‘Alouette’ and songs by One Direction). Flavy and Sambany occasionally let their inner flow out as spontaneous mini-dances (one of Sambany’s dances looked like tap-dancing). The night of Sambany’s return, his radio was the center of a dance party celebrating his healing. We asked Barazafy if she was going to dance with him. She said, “Yes! The whole village is going to dance with him!”
Saying Goodbye to Sambany...
The morning of Sambany’s first full day at home without his tumor, his village held a ceremony dedicated to thanking Mercy Ships for granting him another chance at life. Following a gift of three chickens and a bag of rice, Sahanomby’s spiritual leader gave a heartfelt, grateful speech.
His people assembled to wave us goodbye, and as we shook Sambany’s (and fist-bumped Barazafy’s) hands, we looked into their faces and saw joy. The joy of a man and his family free from a terrible burden; who are free to live.
Mercy Ships patients are not the only ones who experience transformed lives. Crew members create treasured memories of heart-lifting and heart-breaking moments. Ward Nurse Heather Morehouse shares a special story:
When you first arrived on the ward, I saw your face … how your lip was pulled up and made your face look like you had a permanent scowl … how your left eye was missing, and your face was distorted … how you played, but were very aggressive, as if you’d spent your whole life fighting …
I found out that, when you were a week old, your mother left you at home with your older siblings so she could go to work to support you. When she came home, she found that you had been attacked by some animal!
It left a hole in your face that got infected, probably with a flesh-destroying bacteria called noma. It ate away your nose and ruined your eye. A local doctor sewed your eye shut and advised your mom to pour hot water on your eye every day for the next five years. Your mom didn’t know what else to do.
You came to us needing a new nose … but you are leaving with a new heart.