The other day, I came across some incredible numbers:
In 2014, Mercy Ships performed 2,527 surgeries in Congo.
Restored vision to 995 people.
Repaired 170 cleft lips.
Treated 8,358 dental patients.
Trained 73 Congolese healthcare professionals, including 6 surgeons.
Provided employment for 200+ translators.
Provided free rehabilitation care to 70 pediatric orthopedic patients.
Operated on 60 obstetric fistulas.
They also employed 1 familiar Houstonian and sent her back to Africa.
Ten months ago I was a girl who wrote to you about the incredible things that happen on a hospital ship in Africa.
Today I am a girl writing to you about the incredible things that happen on a hospital ship in Africa.
Nothing has changed. Everything has changed.
The Africa Mercy was docked in Pointe Noire, Congo until June 2014. Originally, Mercy Ships’ country-next was Guinea – but due to the Ebola outbreak, Conakry was no longer an option. If any of you were reading this blog while we were there in 2012/2013, you might remember the brokenness of Guinea’s healthcare infrastructure. Long before a deadly virus showed up, hospitals were overcrowded and understaffed. And now? I can’t imagine. It may not make headlines anymore, but the impact of Ebola is still heavy in West Africa.
Next, plans were then made to sail to Cotonou, Benin, but again, the uncertainty around Ebola forced us to re-route in the Fall.
So, to make a long story short, tonight I am writing to you from Tamatave, Madagascar, where the ship has been since October. I am now working for Mercy Ships on their digital media team. I’m based in Houston, but happily traveling this month visiting the ship.
Being back on board is wonderful. It’s been a bit like coming home. Except that my house isn’t in the country where I left it, and, unlike last time I was here, now everyone speaks Malagasy. And drinks out of coconuts. And zips around on rickshas. Don’t you love it when that happens?
Somehow, through all of the ups and downs, uncertainty, fear, and fuzzy future – the remarkable crew here seems stronger. While pieces of our hearts are still in West Africa, volunteers onboard the Africa Mercy are already making an incredible impact in Tamatave.
If the stats from Congo are any indication, in Madagascar we have much to be excited for.
Here’s to many more stories in 2015!