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.
We are happy to announce for the month of July, donations from every Friday night’s Karma class at One Yoga will go to Mercy Ships and our 2015-2016 field service in Madagascar!
What does Mercy Ships and Yoga have in Common?
Health of course!
Much like Yoga, Mercy Ships takes a holistic approach to healthcare, considering the whole person – body, mind, spirit, and emotions. By helping people achieve a proper balance in life, real healing can take place.
If one part of a person is not working properly, all the other parts will be affected. For example our Women’s Health Program provides women with free surgeries to repair devastating childbirth related injuries (Vesico-Vaginal Fistula), but the healing goes far beyond the physical.
The loss of a baby, social ostracism and abandonment is emotionally damaging, women who come onboard the Africa Mercy are showered with love, acceptance and the strength to re-enter society a new person.
We are excited and grateful for the opportunity to team up with One Yoga this month. If you live close to the studio please drop in, the staff are extremely welcoming and would love to see you!
The class schedule can be found here
Marlayna Van Hoepen recently returned home to Chilliwack, British Columbia, from the Africa Mercy where she spent three months volunteering as a cook on board during our 2014-2015 field service in Madagascar.
Marlayna cooked up a storm and provided crew with the fuel they needed to help patients and keep the ship running!
Marlayna now joins Chilliwack Mercy Ships alumni Nurse Nelleke Kerkchoff, Hairstylist Shanna Fortnum and Eye Care Assistant Kathryn Stock who have all dedicated months and years to bringing free healthcare to the world’s poor with Mercy Ships.
At the young age of 19, Marlayna has seen a part of the world most Canadians have not.
“My experience on the ship has changed my life, Africa will forever hold a place in my heart and I will be back” says Marlayna.
One such life-changing experience included Sambany’s story. 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 help, and help he did find, as surgeons were able to completely remove the tumour giving him back his life!
Sambany tells Mercy Ships crew, “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.”
It took 17 blood donors made up of the ship’s crew to keep Sambany alive during the 12 hour operation, he lost all of his own blood and now runs on 100% donated blood. He has since 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.
“Being on board and seeing Sambany’s journey and transformation was just amazing” says Van Hoepen.
During the 2014-2015 eight month field service in Madagascar, 1267 operating room surgeries were performed!
Mercy Ships would not be able to deliver healthcare services to patients like Sambany without the help of our Canadian volunteers like Marlayna!
In 217 days volunteer surgeons performed 104 cleft lip and palate repairs that granted those individuals freedom to live a normal life.
We are thankful for our donors and volunteers around the world that have made those surgeries possible!
Cleft Lips Deconstructed
According to the World Health Organization, approximately 1 in 700 births suffer from a cleft lip –a split usually in the upper lip. In the developing world most cleft lips are closed within the first year.
In developing countries like Madagascar there are few surgeons that can seal cleft lips. Mercy Ships volunteer surgeons not only performed over 100 cleft lip repairs this field service, they also mentored local surgeons in the art of cleft lip.
Francina’s mother used to dread feeding times; her seven month old baby girl couldn’t feed naturally off her like most babies. Babies like Francina often die from malnutrition.
Francina’s mother made the 18 hour journey with her baby, hoping that Mercy Ships could help. When she arrived, Francina was underweight and not ready for surgery. Thanks to our infant feeding program we were able to help Francina reach a healthy weight and get her ready for surgery.
Today, Francina’s mother no longer worries about feeding time!
“Good food equals good health, and that’s what we are all about” – Ken Winbark, Mercy Ships Agriculture program Administrator
What is the Mercy Ships Food for Life Program?
Since 1997, the Mercy Ships Food for Life program improves general health through teaching sustainable agriculture, nutrition, and animal husbandry. Participants discover significantly improved methods of food production.
The program focuses on training nutritionally appropriate, ecologically sustainable, organic agriculture, while also enhancing household revenue. Thence it trains trainers to multiply the message outwards among Non Governmental Agencies (NGOs) and government agencies, villages, cooperatives and families. The right food is the best preventive ‘medicine’!
Locals learn how to rebuild, restore, and renew their lives, land, communities and nations through holistic, organic agriculture development. The latest Food for Life endeavour is Aquaponics which will add another avenue for increasing access and availability to fresh, nutritional foods.
Food for Life in Madagascar
Madagascar deals with many factors that cause major challenges for feeding populations, especially in rural areas. Unpredictable weather, a fragile ecosystem, deforestation and poor land management all contribute to increasing vulnerability and food insecurity throughout the country. Many of the disfigurements Mercy Ships surgeons operate on develop because of malnutrition.
Over the 2014-2015 field service Mercy Ships partnered with 6 NGOs in Madagascar: Centre Fafiala, Anae, Ong Mercy Ministries, Love and Care, Caritas, Philadelphia Orphanage.
Creating a lasting impact
This year our amazing volunteers and donors helped build an Aquaponics system near Tamatave to aid food insecurity in the region. 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, promoting fish growth and providing protein for human consumption, the biggest limiting factor in developing world diets.
The Aquaponics system uses 95 percent less water than traditional methods and cuts the germination time in half. This method produces 2-3 times the yield of traditional farming or standard greenhouse operations, and will help increase access and availability to fresh, nutritional foods.
Making a difference at the Philadelphia Orphanage
On April 12th 2015 Agriculture trainers, Eliphaz Essah and Josh Figini, began a training program at the Philadelphia Orphanage in the Beravy region of Toliara.
This included 12 participants from the orphanage and surrounding community. The projects at the orphanage included: composting, constructing beds for planting, expanding fruit and vegetable production, natural pest repellent training, and assisting in the implementation of a solar powered water pump and irrigation system.
One of the participants, a local pastor, described the knowledge he gained through the training as “riches for the community.” This project will greatly benefit the children at the orphanage!
Eliphaz says “The trainees never believed that this type of agriculture could ever happen there because of the fact that Toliara is a very desert area. The surprise and excitement that the trainees have shown over watching the crops germinate has been very encouraging to us.
The germination of the crops has been largely due to everyone working hard to make good compost. We give all the glory to God over the way the trainees’ hearts and minds have been transformed here.”