Amy Wilderspin started her professional career caring for adults in Canada, but it took a trip to Africa to realize pediatric nursing is what’s really in her heart.
Amy’s first experience with Mercy Ships? An 8-week commitment in Madagascar in 2015 – and it was love at first sight: “I was on a high the whole time, so excited about everything – I knew right away that I’d have to come back!”
It was there that she began caring for children who’d received free surgery for bowed legs, windswept legs and knocked knees. Turns out, she was a natural with these little patients, caring for them as they mended and learned to walk again.
“Nurses around me looked at me like I was crazy when I would tell them that I hadn’t considered myself as a pediatric nurse. ‘No, you ARE a pediatric nurse!’ they’d respond.” Amy soon returned for a longer committment for 15-weeks in Benin to her new-found niche: “I’ve always loved kids. Coming to the ship for a second time, I knew I wanted to work with them again.”
Amy seems more than content traveling to West Africa to live and work on a hospital ship. When she ponders what has impacted her most, she narrows it down to transformation. “I remember a young boy right after surgery – going from the point of complete fear, to then being able to color and play like a child again, and then finally to the point of being able to stand and play Connect Four. I remember thinking, ‘God is so good…’”
She holds back tears as she shares, clearly moved by recalling this boy, along with many other patients who’ve come out of their shell, right in front of her very eyes. “Being able to offer a smile, love, simple medical treatment, which might be a small thing in our minds – in our patients’ minds is huge. They return home not only physically healed, but also, in many cases, feeling spiritually and emotionally better.”
Amy isn’t put off by the idea of having to pay her way or raise support to volunteer with Mercy Ships. In fact, even though it can be a step out of one’s comfort zone, she believes it can be a mutually beneficial step: “I think people want to help the poor. There’s excitement when they get to see how Mercy Ships works. Some take the trip to Africa to serve, and some support the volunteers who go – it works for everyone because everyone can be involved!”
In the end, Amy is absolutely positive that sharing her nursing skills as a volunteer is the perfect fit for her. “Patients actually ask me, ‘What do you get out of this?’ I tell them: ‘I get to serve you and I get to serve God. That’s enough.”
Amy has returned to the Africa Mercy each year since her first time volunteering.