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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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Au revoir Benin

After a triumphant return to West Africa in August 2016, we sailed out stoically on Saturday 3rd June, 2017. Our arrival was loud and celebratory, our hearts filled with joy. Our departure was quiet and tinged with sadness but still our hearts were overflowing at the goodness of God and all he had made happen, though us, in the nation of Benin. We hoped and prayed that we had made a difference, restored lives; physically mentally and spiritually, for this is our calling card We come with a job to do and we do the very best we can, often under trying circumstances, to the glory of God and pray that the nations we serve are blessed by our presence.

The Benin flag flaps proudly in the breeze, for the last time.

The last piece of the gangway going up.

The tugs pulling us out.

Pulling out from our berth.

Deckies working the lines.

Port workers waving us off.

Fisherman farewell us.

Getting a roll on, past the breakwater.

For those of you who enjoy numbers, the fruit of our labour of love. The numbers also include....

Total number of potential surgical patients screened: 11,536. The screening team at work, above. 

Unique dental patients: 6,942. The 4,000th dental patient with Mercy Ships founder, Don Stephens (middle back).

Twenty Ponseti club foot corrections. Above and below, Ponseti baby, Ismaila in his brace.

Palliative care provisions for 26 patients. Above, the p
alliative care team on a home visit with a terminally ill patient. 

An exciting development within Mercy Ships, in the past few years, has been the dramatic increase in Medical Capacity Building. What is Medical Capacity Building (MCB)?

“Mercy Ships healthcare training program aims to enhance the standards of care within the surgical ecosystem in partner hospitals or other healthcare institutions.  With this objective in mind, the organization has developed practical and relevant healthcare training projects that demonstrate and impart knowledge, skills, and a compassionate, professional attitude to each participant. These training opportunities include structured observation, courses, and mentoring.” (MCB Home page Africa Mercy Navigator)

Mercy Ships has offered a number of MCB courses and educational opportunities throughout our field service in Benin. Some of the courses run include….

Neonatal Resuscitation......
Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) is a neonatal resuscitation curriculum created for resource-limited circumstances. It was developed on the premise that assessment at birth and simple newborn care can improve chances for survival. (MCB Home page Africa Mercy Navigator)

The course utilizes the brilliantly designed NeoNatalie kits which include crucial learning tools such as breathing masks, stethoscopes and mock syringes. The life-like doll is an invaluable teaching aide. A pump can be attached to make NeoNatalie “breathe” and to give her a “pulse” that can be checked through the umbilical cord or by stethoscope. The chest visibly rises and enables students to practice giving chest compressions, which click when done correctly.” (Grace Antonini, AFM Writer)

Primary Trauma Care.......
“The Primary Trauma Care (PTC) course was created to offer training to trauma response physicians and nurses in low resource environments, and is intended to provide basic knowledge and skills necessary to identify and treat those traumatized patients who require rapid assessment, resuscitation, and stabilization of their injuries. This course will particularly highlight the need for early recognition and timely intervention in specific life-threatening conditions.”  (MCB Home page Africa Mercy Navigator)

Essential Surgical Skills.......
“The Essential Surgical Skills Course (ESSC) is a two-day course designed to introduce surgical trainees to use safe surgical techniques that are common to all forms of surgery. Students learn a wide range of surgical skills – everything from sterile gowning and gloving, knot tying, and instrument handling; to excision, debridement, and bowel, tendon, and vascular repair, using pig tissues for practice!"
“When asked about what changes they will make as a result of the training, one participant noted,” We have to be careful about being surgically sterile which is very important in the emergency services, different kind of sutures with tissues, also the surgical knots." (MCB Home page Africa Mercy Navigator, Krissy Close MCB Blog Navigator) 

Sterile Processing........“The goal of the sterile processing program is to impart knowledge, skills, and a compassionate, professional attitude in sterile processing to the technicians and nurses in a way that will lead to transformational development in local hospitals in the Mercy Ships target region. (MCB Home page Africa Mercy Navigator)
A few other stats….
·   Participants in MCB Mentoring: 88
·   MCB Renovations: Facility at Centre de Sante de Zogbo for Dental Clinic and
   facility at Centre de Sante de Missessin for HOPE Centre
·   Mercy Ministries partner visits: 269 (crew participant opportunities: 1,987)

Whilst the statistics are impressive, it is important to remember that behind every number there is a life, a life that has been restored and where hope has been made tangible. We may not all work in the hospital but we are one body and we have all contributed towards the radical change of nations whom much of the rest of the world has forgotten about. We strive to give our all, to the glory of God. We are not perfect, we are humans, broken and weak, but God has chosen us for such a time as this, to help provide holistic care, body, mind and spirit for the poorest of the poor.

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