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, June 22, 2011

School photos-with a Difference!

When you think about it school photos are pretty dull and stock standard each year. Not this year for Jess! The kids proudly wore their new Mercy Ships Academy polo shrits out on the dirty, dusty dock in Freetown, Sierra Leone. For these Third Culture Kids, it was just another day in school. Above are Jessica's 4th/4th Grade class and teacher Miss Danae in front of the bow of the Africa Mercy.

Getting cheeky!

The whole Academy. Jess is sitting on the land rover bonnet on the right.

Jessica's teacher, Miss Danae Johnston from Canada. It was a sad day when we bid Miss Danae farewell last week!

Jessica all grown up and ready for Junior High in August.


There are probly no words that I can use to descibe the physical transformation of some of the patients who have surgery on board the Africa Mercy. These surgeries are life changing is more ways than one. Some of the world's best surgeons in their field volunteer their time, free of charge, to transform hundreds of lives in West Africa each year. Some of these surgeries not only transform lives but they save lives. Hope you enjoy this video clip that shows the amazing transformation before and after surgey in a unique way!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Academy Open Night

Last month the Africa Mercy Academy opened it's doors to the crew for it's Academy Open Night and Creative Arts Fair. Usually the Acadmey is off limits to the crew so it provided a great opportunity for crew to see all the wonderful things the children have been doing, get a glipmse inside the classrooms and look at their amazing artwork on display. The evening began with musical items in Town Square from the handbell and recorder groups and the choir and a drama from the high school girls who have been learning sign language. Above are Jess and friends performing their handbells item "Jesus Loves Me".

The Elementary School Choir.

Jess inside her maths classroom, also the grade 2 classroom. What a great view!

Jess trying to work out a maths puzzle...

Some of Jessica's art-Painting on foil.

Jessica's cartoon.

Jessica's Aussie flag painted on cloth.

Her chalk space drawing.

Jessica's class did "Are you Smarter than a 4th/5th Grader"? Mostley we are not-lol!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Mother's Day like no Other!

What to do on Mother's Day in Freetown, Sierra Leone??? I didn't receive any gifts this year (although Andrew informs me that he asked a day worker to find him some fresh flowers, which he couldn't) and my day was decidedly different to any other Mother's Day before it. We booked a land rover to go out and went out as a family. "Alone" for the first time since Janurary! We tried to find somewhere to eat but nothing was open but we found a supermarket open and I got a Snickers ice cream-Happy Mother's Day to me! Then as we were driving around and we witnessed and photographed the poverty surrounding us, it occured to me that to the mothers of Freetown I am incredibly rich and incredibly fortunate and have had more gifts than they could ever dream about!

A typical street in Freetown.

Almost wherever we go in Freetown from the ship we have to go through this junction. It is always chaotic and there is always something to look at!

Street vendors.

Gotta get the washing dry somehow!

Don't know of you can really call this a park. Grass is in short supply in Freetown. The only grass we have seen is some brown, crunchy stuff at the golf course.

Traffic mayhem.

A calmer, more open street. Streets that contain Government buildings are usually more well maintained.

You saw this famous landmark-"The Big Cotton Tree" in a previous blog post but here it is, undecorated, in all it's glory. It is huge!

Everywhere we go there is evidence of Sierra Leone's British heritage. Above is an old British phone booth. Spotted around the place are a British post box, British taxi cab and British buildings.

Street vendors are everywhere! The dismal traffic conditions prove to be a bonus for these vendors as they peddle their wares alongside your car window. Everything from seasame cakes to pirated televison series.

How about some nice new furniture?

So many buildings are in a state of disrepair.

On the way back to the ship we encountered a house fire. This lane is the way back to the port. The fire drew the stares of several hundred onlookers making it impossible for us to get through. Luckily a crew member was walking past and helped us do a ten point turn in the land rover so we could turn around and go another way. The whole journey ended up taking us around three hours and all we ended up doing was going to the supermarket. TIA! (This is Africa)

The Lap of Luxury....or not.

So this looks like a really nice pool at some fancy smanchy hotel right?? This is the Country Lodge Hotel in Freetown and unfortunately there is not too much fancy about it. We spent a day using the pool which was pleasant and relaxing enough but beneath the tranquil setting the hotel's self stared rating of five stars and overpriced rooms were evidence of it's former glory days.

There was a nice terrace overlooking Freetown where we ate our distinctly Western lunch.

Yum-burger and fries!

Just over the edge of the terrace the barbed wire runs in coils around the Hotel.

Run Jess Run!

Welcome to Running Club. What do you do with a bunch of energetic kids of all ages whose physical activites are limited? You get them to run!! The Acadmey teachers are hugely dedicated and the Principal, Miss Nikki from South Africa conducts the Running Club every Thursday evening in her own time. All the kids love it and take it pretty seriously. The night begins with some running games (as above) then progresses to laps on the dock. The kids have a big laminated, cardboard shoe print that gets a footprint punch every two laps. It is the Sierra Leone Marathon. Running Club has finished for the year now and each child was congratulated and given a small treat for their amazing efforts in the heat and dust. Jess ran a total of 24 kilometres!!

Run Jess Run!!!

Miss Nikki punching Jessica's shoe print.

Thirsty work!

Around and around they go......

Our youngest runner- one year old Emma gets down and dirty. Playing in the dirt is more fun than running right??

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Gift of life.........

This letter comes from seven year old Salma Janjua, a recent orthopedic patient on board the Africa Mercy. Not only do the patients bear physical ailments and injurys but they also carry the emotional scars of isolation, rejection and torment. In countires such as Sierra Leone conditions such a tumours, club feet, cleft lips and bowed legs are seen as a sign of being cursed. People afflicted with these conditions are often ostracised from their schools and communitys and live in great shame. It is very common to see people with large facial tumours covering them with cloths and head coverings. Surgery brings freedom, surgery brings healing, surgery brings restoration, surgery gives life...... 

Wedding of the Century!

The ship came to a bit of a standstill on the morning of Friday 29th April, 2011. It didn't seem to matter if you were a Brit, an Aussie or an Amercian. The draw of two beautiful, rich and very famous people tying the knot in front of the world was too alluring. For those of us who were working (like me) and were not able to veiw the royal wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William live, a special recorded version was played at the Africa Mercy's very own "Kate and Wills" party on Friday evening, put on by a Brit, of course! It was a lovely evening of cupcakes, tea and sarcastic remarks about Beatrice and Eugene's hats!

An Amercian switching sides-lol.

All things patriotic came out.

There were even cut out Kate and Wills paper dolls for the kids. Jess is getting busy here!

Paper Kate and Wills.

A lovely hot cuppa.....

The crowd watches with great anticipation...

And what a lovely ceremony it was too. A great sermon and very wise words for the newlyweds and the millions around the world who tuned in.