I grew up in Campbell River, BC, a small town on North Vancouver Island. Inspired by my grandparents, who travelled extensively and would send me postcards from everywhere they went, I quickly developed an unshakable love of culture, global issues, art and media. I knew I wanted to spend my life applying my passion in a way that would have a positive impact on the world around me.
I started out studying at the University of Victoria before transferring to BCIT to complete their Television Production and Media Communications program. After graduation I travelled to Cambodia to produce a documentary on childcare policy and development, working with several NGOs to shed light on the pressing issues Cambodian children face and how this is relevant to the international community. I became enthralled with the concept of utilizing media and communications platforms as tools of empowerment, education and mobilization, and was determined to utilize this interest in a professional capacity.
Moving forward as a producer, videographer, writer and editor, I have since worked on a number of international projects, producing cultural media in China, Cuba, Peru, Vietnam and Lebanon. I have applied my technical skills and love of storytelling to work with various local and international organizations, producing media such as documentaries, art exhibits, PSAs and promotional materials. In addition to a variety of business communications positions, I worked as a researcher and producer for First Story, an aboriginal current affairs program on CTV. I also continued my education, earning my Master of Arts degree in Intercultural and International Communication from Royal Roads University.
I am incredibly excited to be on this journey with Mercy Ships. My day can consist of any number of activities, from communicating with our wonderful donors to developing fundraising initiatives, managing our database, creating newsletters and media communications or producing graphics and multimedia projects. No matter what I’m doing, it is a special feeling to know that everything I do in a day contributes to bringing hope and healing to those in need throughout Africa; I feel so lucky to be a part of such a special team that works together to support an amazing organization. Please do not hesitate to connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
– Andrea Gilbert, Donor Relations
A week of tireless work for the Food for Life trainers had produced the first ever Aquaponics System in Madagascar, it was History in the Making. Now it was testing time! The trainees (and us trainers too) gathered closely around the system.
All of us kind of holding our breath as the pump pushed the final liters of water to the top of the syphon tube. I am not one to worry but I must admit my stomach was a bit in knots right then.
Suddenly the water began to trickle from the discharge lines and swoosh the lines filled and began to flow. An eruption of cheers rang forth followed by what has become the traditional… clap, clap, clap…clap, clap, clap…woosh! as hands rose toward the heavens.
As we hugged each other and shook hands exchanging smiles tears of joy filled my heart and eyes. It was such a joy to see the sense of accomplishment in the eyes of our trainees and their recognition that God is the author of it all. I am so blessed to have witnessed it. Wish you all could too!
Aquaponics is a complete food producing cycle that uses fish waste water to supply nutrients to vegetables that are grown in a gravel medium. The gravel and plant roots purify the water which returns to the fish tank as fresh oxygenated water which promotes fish growth and therefore fish as protein for human consumption, the biggest limiting factor in developing world diets.
It’s been a couple weeks of coming up against hurdles and figuring ways around them time and time again but it’s been worth it. Now we’re in the tweaking phase getting it adjusted. We have put fish in twice and only lost 1 of 70 which is amazing.
Tomorrow 200 more are will be added. Tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, eggplant and papaya were planted on Saturday and they are doing great. Monday means seeds hit the gravel grow beds. The trainers are amazed that vegetables can be grown in stones.
This week is seed planting in the Aquaponics system, the importance of mulching on land, preparation of Ginger syrup, soya milk, yogurt and what might be enhanced in the animal projects and gardens.
I am making a big salad for lunch for all on Tuesday from our fresh organic produce. And by the way since starting our rabbits and chicken projects in December we have now had 40 some chicks hatch and the rabbits have gone from 8 to 60. People who have come from the area and tried our food products are coming back as return customers, which are really charging up the trainees.
A couple of areas we could use your prayers in are
– Ken Winebark, Agriculture Program Administrator
My home at the moment happens to be a large, floating hospital ship, part of Mercy Ships. We bring hope and healing in the form of free healthcare to the forgotten poor. The stunning awesomeness of this is still sinking in. In the words of Amy Humphrey, one of the nurses, “It’s one of the crazy things around this ship that you can be walking to get your morning tea, and two floors below a muscle transfer is happening.”
As one of the writers on the ship’s communications team, I meet patients and hear their stories. I cannot thank my God enough for this privilege. Currently, the ship is docked on the sweet shores of Madagascar, and the people are gorgeous!
A little two-year-old girl named Elvie and her mama, Noeline, are fine examples of this beauty. The most useful word In Malagasy (their language) is mafatifaty, which means cute – a descriptor for basically all Malagasy children.
Elvie’s cuteness was not deterred at all by the fact that she was born with a clubfoot – her left foot turned inward. Although she had surgery when she was six months old, her foot remained bent. But spunky little Elvie did not allow her physical problem to limit her play time! She is one of the cheekiest, most talkative, feistiest, singing, lively little ragamuffin ruffians in the ward! Oh, how she loves to play with balloons!
Elvie is a heart-stealer. Her community loved her so much that they overlooked her deformity and felt sorry for her. Her clubfoot broke her mother’s heart. She wondered what she could do, what her baby’s future would look like, and how many opportunities would be stolen because of this condition.
Noeline was delighted when she heard about Mercy Ships. She lined up with thousands of others on the very first screening day. She was so excited when Elvie was among those selected for a life-changing surgery!
Skilled Mercy Ships medical professionals used the Ponseti method to correct Elvie’s clubfoot. The result? A mother in Madagascar is forever thankful for all those people who have changed her baby’s life – the medical and non-medical volunteers on the ship, the people and companies who’ve generously donated money or gifts-in-kind, and Dr. Ponseti, who invented a corrective clubfoot procedure that works so well in developing countries. Now she dreams that her daughter will become a doctor to help others.
Noeline’s crying is like the weather phenomenon I’ve only experienced in my other home, New Zealand. It’s the kind of weather where the skies manage to pour rain, yet simultaneously the sun manages to shine brightly through the clouds. Noeline’s tears fell while a grin would not stop bursting out on her face. She was one happy woman!
If her face didn’t give it away, then the joyful repetitions of, “I’m so happy! Merci, merci, merci!” punctuated with hugs and excited hand gestures made it clear.
We couldn’t help but share her joy.
In the ward today, Elvie asked her mother, “Where is the sun?”
I can answer that question: “It’s on your mother’s face, little girl.”
Let me leave you with a sentence that one of the patients in the screening line quoted to me, in the midst of profuse thanks to Mercy Ships:
“La vie est la santé, la santé est la vie.”
“Life is health, health is life.”
– Eunice Hiew, AFM Writer
On board the Africa Mercy we want to give our patients the best we can! With that thought in mind, it is amazing what is possible when you apply a little bit of plaster, know-how and time to feet.
For many babies throughout the world born with clubfoot, this has been the recipe for healing: the Ponseti method. Developed by Dr. Ignacio Ponseti in the 1950’s, doctors love the Ponseti method because it is cost-effective (especially useful in developing countries), non-invasive (allows great long-term outcomes) and has a 98 percent success rate (WHO). According to Ontarian Kalinda Ramsaran, our rehab team leader, it is the best available treatment for clubfeet.
So how does it work?
The child’s foot is maneuvered into a more correct position and held there by a cast. This process is repeated until the foot is much improved. Often this is followed by a slight cut to the Achilles tendon to release tension. A brace is then used to maintain the foot or feet at the correct angle and prevent clubfoot from recurring. Thank you Dr. Ponseti for devising a way for us to help so many with clubfoot.
Life altering orthopaedic surgeries continue on board the Africa Mercy, and we couldn’t be more excited to share the news with you as patients recover!
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!