On August 3, the Africa Mercy will leave Durban, South Africa, where the ship has been receiving vital maintenance and repairs in preparation for our second service in Madagascar. In anticipation of starting our 2015/2016 service, keep reading to learn more about this fascinating country and why Mercy Ships is working there.
Most of the population depends on farming rice and cattle, with coffee, vanilla, and seafood being important exports. Unfortunately frequent natural disasters, an increasingly fragile ecosystem and poor land management have resulted in 72% of the population currently living in poverty.
Madagascar has many preventable health issues that due to lack of money and resources have devastating effects on population. Women are particularly vulnerable, with childbirth accounting for thousands of injuries and deaths every year. Addressing an alarming need, in September 2015 Mercy Ships volunteers will lead the construction of a land-based women’s clinic that will provide care for women in need during this service and long after the ship departs. Watch this video on the Women’s Health Program to learn more.
Our friendship with Vololonirina began in November 2014 when a free surgery onboard the Africa Mercy removed the facial tumor that had plagued her for thirty-two years. The growth had severely damaged her self-esteem. She says, “Every time I used the mirror … wow, I was very, very sad. I thought I was ugly.”
Now, when Vololonirina looks into the mirror, she finally sees beauty … and joy. And she doesn’t keep her joy to herself.
Many Mercy Ships crew members treasure pieces of paper adorned with sincerely crafted words of gratitude, encouragement and blessing. Some are decorated with hand-drawn symbols of celebration – colorful balloons, stars, and exploding fireworks. All are signed by a delicate hand, “Mrs. Vololonirina.”
Vololonirina is a writer and a poet. Like the fireworks she draws, her heart is exploding with gratitude. Although she says, “I have nothing to offer,” we disagree. This generous, determined woman has touched us with her gift of words. Her joy is a sweetly powerful reminder of why we do what we do. The very real transformation that occurs in our patients’ lives is worth far more than any challenge we face.
Over the three months she was with us, we accumulated a mini-library of her works. Very considerately, she often gave us two copies, one in Malagasy and one translated into English. Here’s an excerpt of her writing:
By the grace of God I’m what I am
That’s why I’m happy and my soul is blessed
I cannot keep my happiness in my heart
So I’m writing this poem to thank our Lord …
May your serious efforts be successful,
May God bless each of you.
May God bless your household and family.
May God bless your work and occupation.
May God bless and protect this Ark!
After Vololonirina returned home, her family threw a little party for us. Vololonirina was dressed like a queen in exquisite blue and white satin – and, of course, her personal fashion statement, a shawl. She also had pearl-like beads tastefully arranged in her hair.
Her relatives warmly welcomed us into their home. It was striking how different we all were – differences in age, country of origin, languages, and interests. But all of these differences were bridged by love. We had built a strong bond based on compassion, gratitude, and time invested in getting to know and appreciate each other.
Now, we were enjoying a common interest: chips, biscuits, drinks, and playing games with the adorable kids in Vololonirina’s family! The afternoon was a heartwarming reminder that Mercy Ships is about more than just physical healing – it’s also about emotional and spiritual healing.
Vololonirina told us, “Never before have I seen such good people as Mercy Ships people. The people here are very friendly. They did not know me, but they took me as a best friend, and I am very glad for that. They are very, very loving … very, very caring about me.”
Volonirina came to us wrapped in a gorgeous azure shawl. Now she can walk around her hometown, confident in her beauty, wrapped in the lavender shawl we gave her as a parting gift. When she fingers the soft fabric, she will remember her time onboard the Africa Mercy.
Are you ready to ride?
The Ride for Refuge is a fantastically fun, family-friendly bike-a-thon supporting charities serving the displaced, vulnerable, and exploited. This will be Mercy Ships Canada’s second year partnering with Ride for Refuge, the RIDE will take place on October 3rd, 2015!
No matter where you live in Canada, you can take part in the RIDE!
Since 2004, the RIDE has raised more than $6,000,000 through the hard work of thousands of participants and volunteers in locations across Canada and in select American cities.
Last year was such a success and we hope this year will be an even bigger one, watch the short video below to see people who took part in the ride across Canada and the impact they made by raising money and riding for Mercy Ships.
How far can you ride or walk?
Riders or walkers select the route length they prefer (and that matches their physical ability) during registration. Typical distances include:
10km / 5 miles
25km / 15 miles
50km / 30 miles
5km / 3 mile walk — New this year!!
Join a Mercy Ships team, or captain your own team and select Mercy Ships as your charity of choice. We hope to recruit as many captains as we can, please help us and spread the word to your family and friends!
To learn more about the RIDE click HERE
To sign up to be a captain or join a team click HERE
If you’re thinking about adding to your summer wardrobe this month, why not purchase a great top that allows you to give back as well. Shop Cause Shirts!
Mercy Ships Canada has teamed up with Cause Shirts to help bring free healthcare to those most in need in Madagascar.
Cause Shirts aims to support those who are giving everything to help others. $5 of every purchase will be donated to Mercy Ships.
All items are fair trade, Cause Shirts values people and what they do to earn a living!
During the Africa Mercy’s 2015-2016 10-month stay in the port of Toamasina, Republic of Madagascar, We plan to provide over 2,200 surgeries for adult and child patients on board, to treat over 10,000 at a land-based dental clinic, and provide holistic healthcare education to Malagasy health care professionals!
Madagascar is located off the southeastern coast of Africa. More than 43% of its more than 22
million inhabitants are under the age of 20, and the nation is positioned 151 out of 187 countries in
the U.N. Human Development Index. A protracted political crisis in recent years has endangered the
nation’s ability to meet a number of millennium development goals and has taken a heavy toll on
Madagascar’s economy and people, especially the most vulnerable.
The Africa Mercy is equipped with five state-of-the- art operating rooms and is a fully modern hospital
specializing in maxillofacial, reconstructive, plastics, orthopaedic, ophthalmic, dental and obstetric
fistula surgeries. Her crew of 450, volunteer their time and skills to make sure a brighter future is ahead for the thousands of people Mercy Ships is able to help.
Get your new tank or t-shirt HERE today and you will be helping end the struggle in so many people’s lives.
Nestore walked for over two hours to get to the bus station in Madagascar. He wore flip-flops, which made the long walk more difficult. In fact, flip-flops had been his only choice for footwear for his entire 14 years of life. He wasn’t making a fashion statement. His left clubfoot made it impossible to wear regular shoes.
The walk was long and painful, but he was motivated by his desire to “be like every normal person.” A hospital ship which could treat clubfoot for free was coming to Toamasina. His family was too poor to afford treatment, so the ship was his only hope.
At school, Nestore was defined by his physical condition. Schoolmates called him “Rakapila” – person with the foot problem! When he tried to play football, he was the target of mocking laughter. And the most painful part was knowing that the people doing the teasing were his friends. He says, “I feel very sad many times, but I smile. I don’t let it bother me for too long because I don’t like problems between people, but on the inside I feel very sad.”
Nestore’s radiant smile and positive attitude made an immediate impression on the Mercy Ships crew. Orthopedic team leader Noel Grant (USA) says, “I’ll never forget when he came in on his admission day. His smile was all teeth and just ear-to-ear, and I don’t think it ever left his face until right after his surgery … he brings peace and joy with him.”
When orthopedic OR team leader Kathleen Haydon (USA) was asked if any patients stood out to her, her first answer was “Nestore.”
Repairing Nestore’s clubfoot required two surgeries and months of casting – all provided by the generosity of Mercy Ships supporters and volunteers. Kathleen says, “When we scheduled him for surgery, he was so excited … and he’s still glowing.”
Nestore is thrilled with his “new” foot. He declares, “I am happy when I see my foot! With this surgery, no one can see I had a problem before … my life will be completely different.”
The 14-year-old’s favorite part of his Mercy Ships experience was the shiploads of love the crew showed him during his six months of treatment. It was a soothing balm to a boy who had been so hurt by his hometown friends.
His mother Georgette summed up the things he liked best: “The way the nurses really cared for us and loved us. The way the doctors were so friendly and talked openly. The way the translators would tell the nurses exactly how we feel.”
Nestore found physical and emotional healing … and a new dream. He wants to become a surgeon. He says, “I want to help people like Mercy Ships has helped me.”
Noel Grant says, “He was just so intent on everything the nurses were doing. You could see him processing what was happening.” His fascination with all things medical motivated crew physician Dr. Cori McClaughry (USA) to bring him a medical textbook for some casual pleasure reading! Nestore couldn’t understand the English, but the pictures spoke to him. He questioned translators and nurses as to the meaning of things.
Nestore’s keenness to learn was demonstrated in his quick absorption of English. When asked how he felt, his grinning reply was in English, “Very happy!”
As Nestore left the ship to return home, he was wearing a pair of fancy black sports shoes. He says, “I have reached one of my goals – to wear a pair of shoes.” His wardrobe has said goodbye to flip-flops and hello to two new pairs of shoes.
However, the best part of Nestore’s new look is in his very visible self-confidence. “I’m not shy anymore. I can be proud of myself! People have stopped making fun of me,” he explains.
He adds, “I really want to thank Mercy Ships for coming here because, if they did not come, I would remain like before.”
And now he’s stepped into a bright future … equipped with a new foot, new shoes, new confidence and a new dream.