Preamble

We are a family of three; Andrew, Jodie and Jessica (aged 17) from Tasmania, Australia who are currently serving in Cotonou, Benin West Africa on the M/V Africa Mercy, the largest non-governmental hospital ship in the world, through Mercy Ships International. God has called us on a journey that has been many years in the making. For this season we call West Africa home as we seek to bring hope and healing to the poorest of the poor.



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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Goodbyes.....


When you arrive on the Africa Mercy you proceed straight to reception where you have your photo taken for your ID badge-jet lagged and all. Then you are required to attend the New Crew Orientation on the first Monday you are here and go on a tour of the ship within the first 24 hours of arrival. You are given a whole heap of papers to get signed and are encouraged to go on the Mercy Ship's own intranet and read the New Crew Handbook.


What nobody tells you is how fast and how deep your friendships form. We live, work and play together. We cry together, get sick together, laugh together, socalize together. Relationships are intense and often last a lifetime. They don't call the Mercy Ships the Love Boat for nothing-lol. The handbook does not cover this and does not cover the grief and loss when it comes time to say goodbye. And the goodbyes are continual. Just about every day land rovers pull away from the port where the Africa Mercy is docked. This is my little tribute to those who have left who have touched our family's-at least one of us-lives in some small or large way! Let me see if I can do this without crying......


Goodbye Nicki (above)-thanks for being my first pal in Crew Services-your story is amazing!

Goodbye Trish (above)-our first Aussie mate. Thanks for your friendship and getting us things from the galley. Goodbye Mike-thanks for all the chats on Deck 2, and Cathy-also fellow Aussies. Goodbye beautiful inside and out Sarah-hope you and Ollie live happily ever after. Thanks for all you taught me at the Dental Clinic. Now I teach everyone else-lol! Goodbye Lauren-thanks for letting me cry on your shoulder and for understanding. You are the coolest 18 year old I know!!

Goodbye Erin-our adopted daughter and sister to Jess. It still makes me laugh when I think of Jess finding your cabin and asking you for a drink. Thanks for your friendship, your smile and loving on Jess.

Goodbye Miss Danae (above)-the most gorgeous redheaded teacher ever! You are a sweet spirit and any school would be lucky to have you on staff. Thanks for teaching Jess so well. Goodbye Miss Orman (Christina)-the most wonderful science teacher and cheeleader ever. You gave Jess a love of science! Goodbye Mr Calvert (Ben) and congratulations on your wedding. The Academy was blessed through your creative PE classes and your sense of humour!

Goodbye Tvedt family-Dag (above)-thank you for your friendly, open nature and for welcoming me into the Dental Clinic. You are sorely missed by the team! Jorid (above)-thanks for trusting me with your job and for your sweet nature,  Linde and  Bendick. Fride (below)-you are a lovely girl and a special friend to Jess. She still wears your white jacket all the time, even though it is too small for her!

Goodbye Rolland family-Jenny-thank you for thinking of us first with your stuff. It is great to have you back on board, if only for a few weeks. John-thank you for the gift of your amazing photography. Joey, David and Bethany-thanks for the amazing job you did helping to run the Kids Bible Group-Jess really enjoyed going.

Goodbye to a Mercy Ships institution and our hardest goodbye so far-the Peet family. Olly-thank you for being a great friend to Andrew and for looking after him last year in Togo. We miss your sarcasm and bluntness (sort of-lol). Sally-your are one of a kind and we miss you. Thank your for your amazing friendship, your help with so many things and your no fuss, no nonsense manner! I am trying to hold up your inappropriate ledgend but you just seem to have a better knack for it than me-lol. Noah-you were like a big brother to Jess-thank you, Anna-Jess misses you so much, you lit up the ship and Libby-what a character you are-you made us laugh!

Nanita, Sally Peet and me (Jodie).

Jess and Anna Peet

The Peet family as they were leaving. Libby is from Liberia and the reason the Peets decided to leave. They had been trying for many years to gain a visa for Libby so they could return to their home country-the UK- and officially adopt Libby as a UK resident. So leaving was a bittersweet moment. As Olly put it so well in his blog , "From the day one joins Mercy Ships, one thing hangs heavy over you: the day you will have to leave." After almost eight years of service, I am sure!!

Goodbye to the Adjei family-thank you for all your help with the Boutique. Gina-you are an inspiration and we thank God for your amazing miracle, Lawrence-"God is good, all the time, all the time, God is good!!" Daniel and gorgeous Esther. Goodye Zupke family-Your time on board was short but very sweet. Thank you for the fantastic job you did with the summer program-Sam, Margo, Matt and Micah-Jess really enjoyed your company! Goodbye Jacki-another Aussie mate! See you at Max Brenner in December! Goodbye Ken and Jill-you guys rock and we really appreciated your warmth and sense of humour. It is obvious why the crew love you!

This is what it looks like. On the steaming, dusty dock anywhere from half a dozen to over a hundred crew and day workers will gather to say their goodbyes. It is aways very emotional and not a moment that is relished.

It really cuts you deep watching the kids say goodbye to friends who have, in all sense of the word, become their brothers and sisters. Above are Anna Peet and Fride Tvedt, both aged nine and best friends for years, saying their goodbyes.

Looking down at the throng from the top of the gangway.

As those who are leaving pile into the land rovers for the very last time, those who are saying goodbye line the dock so we can give our final wave. For those who have served so diligently for many, many years the ship's horn blasts cutting through the smoky air. One last tribute......

We love you-GOODBYE.................

Nope-couldn't do it without crying...




Monday, August 22, 2011

Hub of Hope


Welcome to the Hope Centre-a place where lives begin and end their dramatic physical and often spritual and emotional transformation. A place of respite, recovery and rehabilitation. In each port that the Africa Mercy visits, a suitable facility is sought out to accommodate patients awaiting surgery or recovering from surgery. Many patients have travelled from great distances to come to the ship and many will spend months in the secure shelter with it's own generators, modular shower/toilet facilities and fresh water system.

 Known by the locals as Obama City the Hope (Hospital Outpatients Extension) Centre began it's amazing makeover well before the Africa Mercy arrived in Freetown. Also housing the Mercy Ships dental clinic, the Hope Centre is successfully able to accommodate 40 plus patients and their caregivers at any one time in airconditioned comfort thus maximising the use of the six operating theatres on board the Africa Mercy. Crew from the Africa Mercy are encouraged to visit the patients at the Hope Centre, as it is only a comfortable five minute walk from the ship, and Mercy Ministry teams visit weekly to help connect non-medical crew with patients.

In the recent school holidays we took a trip to the Hope Centre to play Play Doh and other games. Above are some of the crew kids playing games with patients.

Jess and friends, Anna and Deborah help the patients with their Play Doh, many of whom had never seen it before and didn't quite know what to make of it!

Smiling faces despite difficult circumstances and an often painful and lengthy reovery.

More fun!


This gorgeous one did a little more eating than playing with the Play Doh one thinks! Thank goodness it is non-toxic!

Outside exploits-soccer and skipping.

Jess skipping.


Jess managed to get a smile out of this little boy who wasn't too happy to begin with.

Too cute!

This is a different visit during the four week summer program offered to the children from pre-school to aged 14 years during their two month summer vaccation. The children visited the Hope Centre every week and did activities and visited with the patients. Jess above.

My favourite photo!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Homecoming!


This is Jess and I on our first day on the ship in Durban, South Africa. We didn't know then when we would be back in Australia again. Now we are excited to let the blogging world know that we are coming home for holidays in a few months! It was not our original plan but due to changes in the ship's itinerary and the wedding of my (Jodie's) sister we are making the epic three day trek-41 hours on planes (four flights) and many other hours spent on layovers. Plane, car, ferry-we land in Brisbane, Australia on December 7th after departing the Africa Mercy in Freetown, Sierra Leone on December 5th. We are travelling via Brussels, London and Kuala Lumpur.

After a week in Brisbane we are heading to Launceston, Tasmania on the 15th December. We depart Launceston for Melbourne on the 10th Jan. We are spending one night in Melbourne to visit relatives then travelling to Wodonga in country Victoria to visit our beloved dog, Barney and his proud minder, Marion. Back to Melbourne to fly to London on 12th Jan. We are spending three nights in London visiting friends who left the ship a few months ago, then arriving in Lome, Togo on the 16th Jan all ready for the Africa Mercy's next field service! The Africa Mercy departs Sierra Leone on the 10th of December to arrive on the 15th of December for three weeks down time in Tema, Ghana. The ship then sails to Togo on the 5th of Jan. (Arrives on the same day!)

We are so very excited to be coming home. We hope that the trip will help to clarify in our minds if the ship and West Africa have also become home (which I suspect they have)! We look forward to catching up with many of you and eating all the foods we have so desperately missed, shopping and generally having a big rest!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Beautiful Bureh!


It's hard to believe that just an hours drive from the chaos and pandemonium of Freetown lie so many stunning beaches. A piece of unspoilt paradise.
A few weeks ago a large group of crew members went to Bureh Beach for the day. The weather was a little tumultuous but the company was wonderful, the BBQ tasty amd the water divinely warm.


The locals often feed visitors to the beaches fresh fish which they have caught using their canoes.

 My good friend, Megan and her gorgeous daughter, Emma.

Emma getting curious about the canoe.

A storm threatens overhead. Very Jurassic Park!


Some of the kids spent the day digging a rather large hole.


Jess and her friend Josie from Ghana.

Thanks to the galley staff, in particular Jesse Mitchell, we were well catered for with a BBQ of hamburgers and hot dogs.


There are hundreds of dogs wandering the streets and beaches of Sierra Leone. Some of them look well fed and some are skin and bone. It is very sad.  We are not allowed to pat them as rabies is a very real threat and the ship does not carry the vaccine.This little doggy found some welcome respite from the heat and rain under a chair.


Aussie, Aussie, Aussie-Oi, Oi, Oi!!


A few months ago we had an Aussie get together. There are five long term Aussies-us, Deb a nurse and Tim the Purser but there are many passing through all the time. Apart from us, there are only four people left on board from this photo right now. There are quite a few from Brisbane so we are looking forward to a bit of a reunion when we come home over Christmas. We had a good old yarn about everything from Julia Gillard to Rugby Union and of course covered Master Chef,  Neighbours and a decent steak!

Just a few weeks ago an Aussie crew member organised this ANZAC photo shoot. Our Captain has been on leave so we have had an Aussie Captain standing in for about a month.  It is always good to hear an Aussie accent and to have a good chat with a fellow countryman. We are pretty excited about the impending arrival of another Tasweigan!! Yes, Leah Ferguson from Burnie is joining the ship long term as a teacher, from November. What are the chances of that?!