We are a family of three; Andrew, Jodie and Jessica (aged 18) from Tasmania, Australia who are currently serving in Douala, Cameroon, Central 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 Africa home, as we seek to bring hope and healing to the poorest of the poor.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Slope Cake

It is quite a challenge to bake on the ship. Even when we are in port the ship is often on a lean, causing cakes to slope to one side. This cake tasted great but it failed on the aesthetics department!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

So what does a kid do for fun when they live on a ship, I hear you ask?? Well....There is Deck 8 where a collection of bikes and scooters awaits and lots of open space to ride them around and around! The carpenters are also busy rebuilding a climbing frame and slide. Deck 7 has a netted off area where the kids can play with balls and there are swings, tables and chairs and climbing equipment for the youngest crew.This is where the kids do P.E. There is also a basketball hoop on the dock.
There is a wonderful libary with a fully stocked colletion of DVD's as well as "Storybags". Friday afternoon is Starbucks treat-frappes or maybe a slushie-just 25 cents with a free refill! Jess also loves to visit the hospital, especially the younger kids-she carries them around and plays games with them. The school day runs from 8am to 3:320pm. Jess has homework every night.

Deck 8 Fun!

Sometimes we go off ship for extra fun-here is Jess very intent on catching fish at River No. 2 Beach.

All ready for ballet class. As well as ballet, Jess does panio and hand bells. She has also started a drawing club on Saturday afternoons. On Sunday evenings Jess goes to Kids Bible Study too.
Then there is the pool! The ship is never still, but we just don't notice the continual rocking, that is until you get in the pool! Welcome to the Africa Mercy Wave Pool-the kids can't get enough. Jess goes swimming nearly every day. Tonight she cut her toe on the grate.

What a beauty!

When all else fails, there is always hanging with friends!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Big Day Out

A few weekends sgo we decided to take the plunge and set out into the streets of Freetown in a ship's land rover. We decided to follow a "poda poda", an 18 seater van that was also coming from the ship. Maybe that was our first mistake-lol. After an hour and a half battling traffic and mayhem we arrived at River No. 2. Beach. Too bad that wasn't where we were headed. Anyway, it was a gorgous beach and we had a wonderful day out with old friends whom we did our Gateway traning with back in the States in 2006! Coming home we once again decide to follow the poda poda but this time the driver was insitient that he knew a short cut. After two and a half hours, a flat tyre and 75 kilometres later, we arrived back at the ship!

It was National Clean Up the Streets Day as well.

Here are Peter and Andrew in our rented beach hut eating lunch. Andrew and I both had prawns and rice and Jess had chicken and fries. We didn't have to get up as everything was brought to us.

The beach huts

Postcard perfect!

Jess having fun in the transparent, turquoise water.

The name of this boat pretty much sums up everyday life for most people in Sierra Leone.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I wanna be a Billionare....

Like many African countires inflation has risen the curency in Sierra Leone sky high. This is the smallest note that is kept on the ship at the Crew Bank-10,000 SLL (Sierra Leone Loenes). It is worth around $2.50 AUD. Recently we withdrew 1,000,000 SLL to keep us going for a while. It cost us $231.75 USD. A can of coke on the street costs about 1,500 SLL, a beach hut at River No.2 cost 30,000 SLL and to have two electric fan motors overhauled and rewound cost 900,000 SLL-that last one is from Andrew!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Grey's Anatomy

Jess being prepped to perform brain surgery on a poor defenseless stuffed monkey!
A few weeks ago the hospital had an open night. It was the crews last chance to walk through all areas before they were sterilized and closed. The hospital staff went totally above and beyond to make a fantastic, entertaining night for us all. There were numerous activities, from testing your blood type to "Nurse for a Day Race". All the nurses, doctors and other medical staff dressed up and really got into the spirit of the evening. They even baked cakes and the most awesome biscuits. Those peanut butter chocolate chip cookies were to die for................
Gloving up.
The patient-poor monkey. Jess named him Freddy.
CPR Training.
Intubating an adult. I think they lost a few teeth in the process!
Learning how to suture from the Africa Mercy's Chief Medical Officer and maxillo facial surgeon, the very humble Dr. Gary Parker.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Home Sweet Home!

Here she is-our very big house. Our refuge! After a long day it, it sure is good to get back to the ship. This is us berthed in Freetown right now (SOURCE: courtesy crew member Olly Peet) and below getting under sail from Durban to Cape Town in February.

When Hope turns to Desperation......

The crowd at the Stadium gates. SOURCE: Courtesy Mercy Ships Australia Facebook page.

I have been challenged to be transparent. That doesn’t mean telling everyone your business. It simply means not hiding or disguising the truth or how things really stand. I know most of you have been reading all our Facebook and blog posts and seeing that we have pretty nice accommodations, albeit small and cramped, we eat fairly well and the ship is air-conditioned. We have seen amazing things and been to some wonderful places but let me tell you about today…

Today was screening day at The Freetown National Stadium. The first lot of crew left at 4:00a.m. Anticipation was high, the mood was upbeat. I left at around 8:30am in a ship’s land rover with some other Mums and a few other crew. The traffic was unusually light, if that’s how you describe complete chaos. We were smiling and laughing and wondering what the day would hold. For some it was our first screening, others were veterans. We arrived and things appeared to be orderly and under control. I was working as an escort or guide. Someone to take patients to wherever they needed to go. I was stationed at the pre-screening area. I either had to take people to registration-they had received that coveted plastic card or to the prayer station after they had been told that they could not be helped. So I was the first point of reference for someone whose dreams had been crushed. Someone who had been standing in the hot sun for six hours with their small child, someone who couldn’t see, someone who had been holding up their child whose legs could not support their own weight. What could I possibly say? I know I said sorry about 500 times but that seemed so inadequate.

During the morning the crowd became increasingly noisy and agitated. They began to put pressure on the large metal gates that held them in. I was returning from the prayer station and was greeted with scenes of Mercy Ships Crew holding hands in 2 lines in order to form a human chain in a desperate attempt to control the pressing crowds. The gates had been stormed and people had been crushed and trampled. Thirteen people were injured, include 2 critically and one fatality. I watched in horror as the nurses treated those whose who had been injured, lying on the concrete, several passed out. Two people were intubated. Nothing compared to the scene next to me as I noticed a body covered in a white sheet. I could not believe that someone had died. One of the nurses asked me to stand by the body while she helped to find a stretcher so the body could be taken to hospital in one of the ship’s land rovers. It took everything in me not to bust in to tears at the desperation of the scene. Mercy Ships crew were running everywhere, Sierra Leoneans were begging me to be seen and I could not help them. A woman screamed at me that we did not show here any mercy. Then someone else screamed at me to get water. I didn’t know where I was going or what to do but I found water. Then I and the ship’s hairdresser carried a giant cooler of water towards the main gate. We were told that they desperately needed water outside the gate. I went without a thought. People were crying for water. It was unbelievably hot. We quickly distributed water to everyone in the smaller line. A woman was passed out on the ground. She was wearing nothing on the top and some of the male Mercy Ships crew managed to lift her above the crowd to receive help.

I then noticed the pressure on the metal gates again. Police were trying to hold the gates. I had to walk past the gates to go back inside the stadium and right then I was so scared that the gates were going to burst open and that I would be trampled. I couldn’t move very fast as some crew were assisting another woman in front who could not walk very well. I was so relieved to get back into the stadium.

I went to try to find my supervisor as it appeared that screening had come to a grinding halt. We were told that all non-medical personal were to leave immediately. The land rovers travelled in caravan with all the windows closed for extra security. It was stifling. I was wet with sweat. None of us had eaten or had much to drink. Just before I left I overheard a nurse say that the screening had been cancelled as it was too dangerous to continue. The medical team tried to stay on but were told by the police, shortly after I left that everyone must leave now! The mood was sombre in the land rover on our return trip. There were so many haunted faces amongst the crew. The things people had seen today. We had been told of the extreme poverty but today the desperation became tangible.

The galley staff went above and beyond and kept lunch going for several hours past lunch time and served us all ice-cream for tea-a special treat. The evidence of a day gone pear shaped in the unopened cartons of chips, apples and cookies sent to the screening for crew. I finally allowed the tears to pour out of me in a flood. I wasn’t the only one. The Captain asked all those who were near “The Incident” to write down what we saw so they could establish what exactly had happened. I watched from my cabin window as people slowly retuned. No one was smiling. I saw the lady who was responsible for the organisation of the day and the husband and wife security team and my heart broke for them. But not as much as it is broken for the dead man, the injured and all those who had a desperate need who were unable to be seen today. Two arrests were made for inciting a riot.

 Mercy Ships has been screening for 25 years and this is the first time this has ever happened.  Our Managing Director was able to visit the injured in hospital alongside the Minister for Health late this afternoon. The deceased appears to have no relatives so remains a John Doe. We were reminded that God is in control and he has called each and every one of us here for a purpose. The crew acted  heroically and professionally and with great compassion under the most difficult of circumstances. God has a plan for the people of Sierra Leone and we believe that the right people will be seen.  In a life time you can pin down days that define you, that change your world-today was one of those days.

 First up country patients arrive, Africa Mercy Freetown, Sierra Leone. SOURCE: Courtesy Africa Mercy Communications Department.

On a much happier note, the wonderful advance team who arrived in Sierra Leone several months ahead of the Africa Mercy were able to secure dozens of surgeries. Here are the first patients arriving at the Africa Mercy and heading up the gangway last week. On Saturday, 26th March we are heading out for our second attempt at a mass screening in Freetown. It will be held at a former UN compound and much work and planning has gone into the day. Many improvemnets have been made and new protocols adapted. I (Jodie) am once again acting as an escort to take patients to wherever they need to go.
First patients going up the gangway.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Boutique-Before and After

Boutique before sail-trying to get everything on the floor!
As an "Option 2 Mum"-ship speak for having a child between ages 6-13, I am required to work 20 hours per week. My job is The Boutique Manager. The Boutique is basicaly an op-shop but without exchange of money. As people leave or have a clean out or their kids grow out of clothes, they bring stuff down to The Boutique to donate. I then sort through everything and make it all looks pretty and clean on the shelves. I work four mornings per week, two evenings and one afternoon. It is a hard, hot and tiring job. You see lots of gross stuff and the other day I had hives on my arms. But I do get to meet and interact with many of the crew who I wouldn't normally meet. It is wonderful to hear a West African man squeal (yes squeal) in delight over the bright, shimmery purple African outfit made of material that look suspiciously like shower cutain or being able to give a doctor on the run two saftey pins to hold a child's sling in place. From hammocks to hand towels, books to bandanas, sleeping bags to sewing stuff.......the list is endless. You name it, I've seen it!

       The night before Grand Opening!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Freetown through our Eyes

We don't have too much of a view from the ship as
we have quite a high wall made of shipping containers.
If you go right up to deck 7 and 8 you can see over the
containers. It is also very smoky and hazy.

This is our berth just before we came in.

A run down building typical of most in Freetown

An amazing sunset that we can view every night!

Does this look safe to you???

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sierra Leone at Last!

This is our first sighting of Sierra Leone-very early on the
morning of Sunday 27th Feburary. It was wonderful to
see land again after 2 weeks at sea. We could smell
the smoke and see the haze from miles away.


Here we are in our finest. It is the ship's tradition that
everyone who comes on deck to watch our arrival
into our host nation honours that nation by dressing
well. For the women, knees must be covered at all

Jessica's class made Sierra Leone flags which they waved

Our welcome party!                      

Dilapidated buildings of Freetown.

Shaku and Alice, our two Sierra Leone crew carry
their flag down the gangway.

The marching band that performed for our arrival. We
sang the Sierra Leone national anthem accompanied by
the band.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Funny Thing Living on a Ship......

There are many different things about living on
a ship as opposed to living in a house on land.
Like the fact that we have five things on our
bedroom ceiling-a light, a sprinkler, two air
conditioning vents and a PA speaker. The
inside of our front door has a map of the ship
with an escape route bolted to it as well as
instructions on how to use a life jacket. We
had many stubbed toes before it became
automatic to step up and over whenever
we leave or enter a room. Our walls are
magnetic and our bed had wooden sides

Before sailing EVERYTHING needs to be tied, bungyed or
bluetacked down. You put your TV/DVD and microwave
on the floor, tie your fridge to the screws in the portholes,
bungy or tie your cupboard doors and blue tac down or put in
drawers all loose items. Even taking all precautions we still
managed to have groceries fall on top of us, the couch slide
across the floor several times (with us on it), the fridge door
burst open (someone forgot to bungy it shut) and the cordial
fly out like a guided missile. All in one day! Good times. You
can also judge the roll of the ship by how far the curtains swing
out! How many degrees is the photo below?

Disposible surgical caps make great dust filters for the A/C
vents.They have also come in handy, of late, for catching
rouge mosquitos!

Below are two of the ten portholes in our cabin.
We are very lucky, some people have none! This
 is the view from our lounge somewhere in the
Atlantic Ocean sailing between Durban and Cape
Town, South Africa. Water views everywhere-even
from the toilet if you leave the door open-lol!

Before we begin sailing all the watertight doors are closed.
For extra motivation, these lovely signs are posted on the
wall for our veiwing pleasure!