“The six weeks I spent as a volunteer with Mercy Ships in Liberia was I think my 18th trip away as a voluntary aid worker in the last three-and-a-half years,” says West Australian nurse Debbi Wilson.

“As I am constantly reminded that the largest proportion of the world’s population lives in poverty, I recognise that I can help in some small way. I love doing it. Without doubt, how could I not do it!”

Mercy ships

HELPING THE POOR: Debbi Wilson with a surgeon and one of their patients in an operating theatre in Liberia.

 


“My friends and family are very supportive of my volunteer work. My family members miss me, as I do them. My daughters keep reminding me they need me as much as the Liberians or the other local people in developing countries where I have also spent time as an aid worker. But I had no doubts or fears about this assignment. I was there to do God’s work.”

- Debbi Wilson

Ms Wilson, a 51-year-old mother who lives in of Applecross, Western Australia, is a registered nurse and midwife and has served in a variety of capacities in operating rooms onboard the Africa Mercy, the world’s largest non-governmental hospital ship owned by the global Christian charity Mercy Ships.

As with all of the more than 400 volunteers onboard, she paid her own way to get to West Africa and paid crew fees during her time there, to help offset the ship’s costs, ensuring that all medical and community development services could be provided free of charge to the people of Liberia. She had read a magazine article about Mercy Ships and learnt more from friends in Perth who had served as volunteers recently.

“My friends and family are very supportive of my volunteer work. My family members miss me, as I do them. My daughters keep reminding me they need me as much as the Liberians or the other local people in developing countries where I have also spent time as an aid worker. But I had no doubts or fears about this assignment. I was there to do God’s work.”

Ms Wilson says getting to Liberia was not the easy part. “It was a long way. I left Australia from Melbourne were my husband was living and working at the time. From there I flew to Perth, on to Dubai, Accra, Ghana overnight, then another flight to Monrovia. From there it was a two-and-a-half-hour trip by Mercy Ships vehicle to the ship in deluging rain.”

“I did not know anything about Liberia before leaving. On arrival I found the country has a very interesting history. It was a wonderful experience getting to know the local people and being involved in community activities, seeing around the country, and visiting local pre-war hospitals. Through the short six weeks in Liberia I was constantly reminded of the needs of some of the world’s poorest people.

Asked about the importance of the work she carried out, Ms Wilson says: “It’s not about me at all. I love what I do, but I believe totally that the work I did and the work being done by all the volunteers who serve with Mercy Ships is fantastic. It is making a real and much needed difference in the lives of the people being served. The downside is that we cannot help everyone. For some, their disease, injury or disability has gone too far to help. For some others, we simply don’t have the necessary equipment or specialists to help. It is very heartbreaking to have to turn such people away.”

“I loved every minute of my time onboard, working in the operating theatres, serving in the community, enjoying fellowship with other volunteers, along with the teaching and love given to the people of Liberia. I hope to be able to continue what I am doing as an aid worker, nurse and teacher. I am very interested in returning to Mercy Ships again. God has commanded us to love others and to use the gifts and talents he provides. I am sure God made me for moments such as these,” she concludes.

Mercy Ships is an international Christian charity that has operated hospital ships in developing nations since 1978. Following the example of Jesus, Mercy Ships brings hope and healing to the poor, mobilising people and resources worldwide. 

The emphasis is on the needs of the world’s poorest nations in West Africa, where the hospital ship Africa Mercy provides the platform for services extending up to ten months at a time. A permanent land-based program operates in Sierra Leone, while teams also work in several nations of Central America and the Caribbean. Mercy Ships has 14 support offices around the world, including the Australian office at Caloundra, on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

www.mercyships.org.au

Amos Bennett is media officer for Mercy Ships Australia.