Monday 20 November 2017: North Boyanup’s Elly-Marie Dekker isn’t quite sure where she first heard about Mercy Ships, the international charity she’s spent the last two months volunteering with on the other side of the world, but as soon as she did she knew it was something she wanted to be involved in.
It was her desire to be part of something bigger that compelled the 21-year-old to travel to Cameroon in Central Africa to serve on the Africa Mercy, the world’s largest independent hospital ship operated by Mercy Ships.
Miss Dekker worked in housekeeping on board, disinfecting public areas of the ship and ensuring all decks were kept in order.
Although trained in business management, Miss Dekker wanted to do something more “hands-on”.
At first she found herself questioning her role as she didn’t assist in the life-changing surgeries being performed on board.
However, she soon began to understand the importance of her work in stopping the spread of disease.
“It was hard, dirty work but very rewarding to know that we were doing our part in keeping our patients and crew members safe,” Miss Dekker says.
Miss Dekker finds it important to try to make a difference, even in small ways.
“If it just means scrubbing with a smile or being there as encouragement for those who are confronted with so much more than us, being with Mercy Ships I have really come to a greater understanding that the small ways are often the ways that count.”
“I was a little apprehensive before leaving about what to expect and how I would fit in,” she says. “It was a big step out of my comfort zone!”
However, it wasn’t long before she settled in and Miss Dekker says she was surprised at how quickly she adjusted to living among 400 other volunteers and how quickly she made friends.
She found seeing the poverty and hardship faced by the people of Cameroon her greatest challenge.
“Many of them grow up in areas that can’t meet their needs and simple problems go untreated,” she says.
“But you can see a special depth in people that comes with the trials they have faced and get to experience first-hand the amazing love of all those surrounding you, trying to make a difference.”
One of seven children, Miss Dekker had great support from family and friends at home while fundraising for her trip and even took a second job to help cover her travel costs and accommodation costs on board.
“Some people I barely knew were offering me words of support or asking to donate towards the cause,” she says.
Mercy Ships staff are volunteers and pay for their own expenses. It’s this model that allows all donations to go directly towards providing life-changing surgeries for the world’s poorest people.
Miss Dekker returned from Cameroon late last month and says she is already saving up for her next big trip.
“You never know what might be around the corner!” she says.
About Mercy Ships
Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class health care services, capacity building and sustainable development to those with little access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1.3 billion, treating more than 2.56 million direct beneficiaries. The Africa Mercy is crewed by 400 volunteers from up to 40 nations, an average of 1000 each year. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. With offices in 16 nations, Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time. For more information visit www.mercyshps.org.au
For further information, please contact:
National Office Manager, Mercy Ships Australia