A family volunteer abroad with Mercy Ships
Volunteer Abroad: A Seed Planted
Twenty years ago as a nursing student, Ruthy wanted to help Mercy Ships but lacked the two years of experience required, putting her plans on hold. Life goes on as they say, and two years turned into twenty with a marriage and two beautiful children! Ruthy’s dream was still strong and now involved her family, leading to them submitting their applications together in 2017
Because a two-year commitment awaited the Siemens, this family adventure required a lot of preparation and dedication. They sold their home and prepared themselves physically, mentally and spiritually to live on the hospital ship. Ruthy especially emphasizes the sacrifice her sons are making by leaving their friends and their familiar lifestyle temporarily. The family has had to navigate this new lifestyle that is not only bringing them closer physically through the close cabin quarters, but also emotionally.
In this step of commitment, all four learn a great lesson, says Ruthy: “It is not about our own freedom but it is our neighbor, the patient, that we learn to put forward.”
What does this new life on board mean for the Siemens family? Ryan serves as the Transportation Manager, so he’s the one responsible for coordinating the use, maintenance, and general upkeep of ship’s vehicles, the maintenance and up-keep of shore facilities and equipment, and helping to set up & pack down each field service. While still in the Canary Islands, awaiting departure to Senegal, Ryan prepared everything to ensure that the dockside set-up would be as efficient as possible and thus allow the start of care in the shortest possible time. Ruthy proudly mentions that he and his team were able to install everything in record time upon their arrival in February 2022!
It is in this dockside facility that the post-operative care is installed where Ruthy serves as a nurse. Ruthy follows up with patients after their surgery: wound care, exercise and medication follow-up, pain management and medication support. Through all of these tasks, she enjoys working side-by-side with local Senegalese daycrew members who ensure that important information is communicated to patients and their families while supporting the technical work of the care team. It is a pleasure for her to learn to work with an international team and though she cannot speak Wolof or French, she assures that much can be conveyed through non-verbal communication and kindness. Patients in post-operative care sometimes have to stay for weeks or even months with their loved ones, and these moments of being with them and accompanying them are precious to Ruthy.
As for the boys, they continue their 7th and 9th year at the academy on board the Africa Mercy and must also draw on their ability to adapt. They are making new friendships and finding new ways to pursue their passions. For example, Elijah, a soccer fan, now plays with a group of volunteers on the ship, of all ages and from around the world. They are discovering the reality of Senegal and the major needs in the health field.
For the Siemens family, volunteering abroad is an opportunity to learn about themselves and the world. They choose to find their place to bear fruit that benefits the patients being treated, their colleagues on board and their own family unit. Together, they learn to be flexible, to grow in a community in motion, and to bring hope and healing through their contributions.