On August 26th the Africa Mercy will arrive in Cotonou, Benin to begin her 2014-2015 field service!
Benin is considered one of the most stable and safest countries in the region, with a recent history of peaceful transitions between governments through democratic elections, and a progressive government striving to modernise the country and eradicate poverty. Export of agricultural products is the main source of income, but the Port of Cotonou also serves as a major gateway for goods into the neighbouring countries of Togo, Burkino Faso, Niger and Nigeria.
Despite the stability of both the country and its economic growth, it is still considered one of the poorest nations in the world, ranking at 165 out of 187 countries according to the United Nations Human Development Index in 2013. One of the areas that still needs major improvement is the country’s health system.
During the Africa Mercy’s 10-month stay in the port of Cotonou, Republic of Benin, volunteers plan to provide over 2,300 surgeries for adult and child patients on board, to treat more than 18,000 at land-based dental and eye clinics renovated for the purpose, and provide holistic health care education to over 160 Beninois health care professionals and 800 community leaders!
Our Education Programs aim to impart knowledge and skills while modelling and encouraging a compassionate and a professional attitude to promote transformational development in the Beninois health sector. Measures include one-on-one mentoring opportunities and internationally recognized courses for groups in the Africa Mercy hospital.
Make sure to check back for updates on the Africa Mercy and her Crew!
Hello faithful Mercy Ships Canada Blog readers!
As a fourth year Political Science student at the University of Victoria who aspires to pursue a career in the field of NGOs, it’s awesome to have the privilege of being the Mercy Ships Canada Summer 2014 intern! This summer I am working as a Development Assistant, aiming to increase and strengthen partnerships between Canadian businesses and Mercy Ships.
I’m a native born “Creeker,” as we call ourselves — those of us who were lucky enough to grow up in the small, tight-knit, and especially quirky Oceanside community of Roberts Creek. My childhood memories consist almost entirely of outdoor activities: playing in freezing cold Roberts Creek (which I was lucky to have running through my parents’ property!), hanging out in my tree fort, creating trails through the forest, hanging out on the beach, and countless camping trips to our family’s favourite lake.
Four years studying at UVic have solidified my passion for politics – particularly political involvement, international relations, the Israel/Palestinian conflict, and international development. As a Senior in High School, I began sponsoring the education of a young Kenyan boy named Moses through a charity run by my Vice-Principal. Moses and I have been exchanging letters and photos for almost 5 years now. Being exposed to the gratitude that comes from just one person receiving a small amount of support makes me so excited to be working for Mercy Ships, knowing the reach of this organization is incredibly far-reaching.
Because I am passionate about the empowerment of women who have been oppressed, I’m very interested in the work Mercy Ships does for women with obstetric fistula. VVF surgeries help to restore the dignity of these patients and relieve them of the ostracism they are subjected to as a result of this condition.
But above all, the thing I love most about Mercy Ships is that ALL patients leave the ship with a renewed sense of hope and confidence that is truly irreplaceable. I am proud to be a part of this organization for the short time that I am here, and I hope that I can make a helpful contribution towards the development of Mercy Ships Canada as I grow and learn during this internship.
If you would like to connect regarding anything I have mentioned above, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com I would be happy to hear from you!
Is everyone else as excited about this as I am? Probably not, but that’s okay. 🙂
I’ve known I wanted to work in international development since I was a teenager. It’s what I studied in university, it’s where I focused my volunteer efforts and it was what I read/thought/talked about for almost a third of my life. To say that it’s something I’m passionate about would be an understatement. And in May 2012 I got to fulfill my dream and started working in the sector here at Mercy Ships.
While theories around international development have evolved over the years, today we are closer than ever to having a model that not only proves successful, but shows it’s participants grace and mercy along the way. There are three tenets in international development that have always stood out to me, and I’m so proud that Mercy Ships is able to hold true to all of them.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights starts with, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Mercy Ships does such a beautiful job of honoring this. We have people coming to us from all over West Africa with many types of ailments. Our volunteers see patients with tumours so large they must cover their faces, women suffering from fistulas who constantly leak urine and feces, and children whose legs are literally on backwards. Our patients are often shut out from their communities and ostracized from society. When they come to seek treatment from Mercy Ships volunteers, they are only ever treated with the utmost love, respect and dignity. Our volunteers see the person behind the disfigurement, an experience that is rare to many of our patients.
Mercy Ships never goes anywhere we aren’t welcome, in fact before we dock anywhere we have to be invited. Often times that invitation comes many months, even years, before the Africa Mercy actually takes up port in the host country. Prior to our arrival, we engage with local government leaders, listening to them about their needs and the direction their country needs to go. It isn’t only about what Mercy Ships can provide, it’s about how we can work together to achieve amazing results.
A good rule of thumb for any development project is to always ask this question: If we walked away right now and never came back, would this project still be a success? If the answer is yes, you’re on the right track! Whenever the Africa Mercy sails away, the host nation is always better off than when it arrived and not just because of the thousands of transformed lives. I’m talking about our capacity building training programs. Our volunteers spend much of their time training the nation’s doctors, nurses and medical professionals with skills that will last a life time. One of the best examples of this I can think of is from Canadian, Christina Fast, who is transforming health care in West Africa by teaching sterilization techniques to one hospital at a time.
Yesterday, on #GivingTuesdayCA we kicked off #MercyChristmas2013! December is going to be a MARVELOUS month! All donations up to 1.5 million dollars will be MATCHED by a group of donors until December 31st!
Canadians far and wide have the opportunity to give a life changing gift this holiday season. Large or small, every gift means that those such as Grace, Ebenezer, Emmaneol, Thierno and thousands of others will receive the care that they need.
But why Have a ‘Mercy’ Christmas? The word ‘mercy’ holds an incredible amount of meaning, and I want to paint a picture of it for you. Well I want to paint someone else’s picture of it for you…
I can’t think of anything that would describe ‘mercy’ as well as a blog post I read a while ago written by one of our crew members, Ali. Ali defines ‘mercy’ so eloquently and humbly and beautifully and…
I cannot find many more words that make the word ‘mercy’ shine more brightly. Have a Very MERCY Christmas.
There’s the dictionary definition of the word, stuff about compassion and forgiveness and helping to alleviate suffering, and then there’s the heart of the thing, and that’s what I hold in my trembling hands, all these years into it.
Mercy is a big ship full of people gathered from every corner of the world who live with a single purpose: walk in the centuries-old footsteps of the Jewish Carpenter who changed everything.
It’s children born with cleft lips who can raise their hands in the classroom without fear of ridicule. It’s the mama who can finally stretch out her burn-scarred arms to pick up her baby when he cries, the man who no longer shuffles through each day in pain from an untreated hernia. It’s the boy who can kick a soccer ball instead of limping on the sides of his feet and the woman who walks away from years of silent suffering with her head held high and her dress clean and dry.
Mercy speaks to the ones we turn away, too, the ones who plead with us and leave with shattered hearts. It’s there in the smiles we wear like armor to cover our own brokenness, in the shoulders we offer for the weary to lean on and in the heartfelt prayers for the healing we can’t provide. And even though it never feels like enough, we know that we’re not the first ones who have walked this road.
It says that thousands came to see the Carpenter, thousands who had gathered up all their courage and made the journey in hopes that there was finally going to be some way out of the darkness.
I can still see the line when I close my eyes, how it stretched on forever, how every time I looked up there was a new face in front of me, eager, expectant, filled with that same hope in spite of lifetimes of pain. I can still see the hundreds we sent through, the thousands we sent away.
When we finally left, well after dark, the sand in that school yard was covered in footprints. Big and small, straight and twisted, some deeper than others where willing arms had reached out to carry weak frames, all of them filled with hope or joy or heartbreak, all of them accompanied by the strong, unwavering marks left by the Carpenter who walked alongside each of us that day.
In my heart, I slip off my shoes, dig my toes deep into that dirt and know in some quiet, sure way that I stood on holy ground that day.
And as I look back on those footprints, I sink to my knees as I trace the lines of mercy in each one.
To all of you giving what you can and helping make a lifetime impact…
Gratitude is the hearts memory. Thank you so much!
Training is going very well. This week was Compost making, building a Compost Nursery table and planting lettuce,eggplant and tomatoes,building the rabbit house, making yogurt, natural insecticides, Hope for Africa.
Our trainees start the day with one sharing devotions. They have been doing a great job with that. This also gives us a chance to see how they teach. They have asked me to teach them English so we are doing three to five phrases or words a day. It is helping me get past “oui, oui” which is pronounced “we,we” and no it doesn’t mean I have to go to the bathroom.
Without a doubt the highlight of the week has been the yogurt making. Due to the size of the group we have had to split them in two to teach that. This of course has created a little competition. After the first group made their yogurt one of the guys (who was not in the group) said ” any man who says this is not good yogurt is a liar” … He liked it a lot and so do I. The great part about two groups is that we have had awesome yogurt for breakfast two days this week! Making yogurt is new for us.
I sent Eliphaz, our trainer for training this year to help expand our Nutritional emphasis on the program and he learned how to make it there. This training has really opened his eyes to our need for focusing on nutrition. He is now looking at how all we do impacts nutrition. Yogurt is a great nutritional supplement to the diet and another way we can emphasize the importance of nutrition in promoting better health. We even made some Moringa yogurt to pump up the nutrition that much more.
Speaking of Nutrition, here is the definition that the class came up with for Nutritional Agriculture, our program: It is providing food in a necessary quantity and quality to maintain our body balance and good growth and will produces good health. I thought this was a great definition of what we are trying to accomplish.
The Director of Agriculture for the region visited us again this week and was quite complimentary about what has taken place in such a short time. We spoke with him about having our trainees speak on the local radio about what they are learning to help spread the word. He said he could arrange that and also said he would like to have the television station come out and report as well. It’ s starting to take shape!
Yesterday one of our better trainees told us he has gotten a job teaching Agriculture at the school and would have to leave us. We are sorry to see him go but it has now opened up the opportunity we have been praying about to later on have our trainees teach in the school system here.
This is not only a great way for our trainees to learn how to present what we are training them but is a great way to get the information disseminated to the community through the kids. This is why the 4-H youth program got started in the US and those of you who know my background as an Extension Agent for Penn State know that this makes me tick!
– Ken Winebark, Agriculture Program Administrator