It takes volunteers from many different backgrounds to fulfil the Mercy Ships mission of providing access to safe, timely healthcare. When we think of the importance of International Women’s Day, we are moved by the strength of the women that serve with us, impacting lives on a daily basis. From executives to mothers and doctors, we honour you today! While celebrating this year’s International Women’s Day, we want to share the impactful work of four women who are changing the narrative of global surgery.
Rosa Whitaker, President of Mercy Ships
Rosa Whitaker, who has served as the President of Mercy Ships since 2018, has long been recognised for her work and involvement within the African continent. She is passionate about the empowerment of the African peoples and nations, hoping to help shape their continent’s rise on the global stage. “Mercy Ships is doing more than providing much-needed health treatment and lifesaving surgeries,” Whitaker said. “We are providing medical training, establishing health partnerships, catalysing health care infrastructure development,and leaving a legacy and a culture of care when we disembark. We understand that the value of human life is incalculable,and we bring that awareness with us everywhere we go.”
Dr. Sarah Kwok, Volunteer Anaesthesia Supervisor on board the Africa Mercy
Dr. Sarah Kwok currently serves on board the Africa Mercy as the Anaesthesia Supervisor, lending her skills as a team leader on the surgical team. Initially, Dr. Kwok left her job in London to serve on board our hospital ship for one year. It soon turned into a two-year stint after she was impacted by the culture and community. “We have women in leadership in the operating room, and also on the ship,” she said. “I think that is very encouraging to see. When you see that,you can go home and tell others about meeting a female doctor serving on this ship who is helping bring safe surgery to Africa…isn’t that great?”We are so thankful to Dr. Kwokfor loving our patients and providing first-class care to the people of Africa.
Denise Ngum, Volunteer Electrician on board the Africa Mercy
While Mercy Ships is known for our hospital ship, it takes more than just health care professionals to bring hope and healing to those we serve. Denise Ngum, a volunteer electrician on board, was surprised that she could submit an application and be considered for the position. She had previously faced challenges being a woman in the industry. Being given a chance to serve on board, Denise was able to be a part of a bigger mission, while refining her skills in an environment of encouragement. “I want to address the African nation that there is still hope for us,” Ngum said. “I never knew there was a lot in me I could explore,and I am so happy and ready to go back to my country to help in the best way I can. We can do it together!”
Dr. Fifonsi Odry Agbessi, Plastic Reconstructive Surgeon with Mercy Ships
Dr. Fifonsi Odry Agbessi first knew the career she wanted to pursue after hearing a heartbreaking story when she was only 12 years old. “I saw a woman on TV…her husband had burned her with acid, and her face had become fused to her neck, so she could never look a person in the eye,” Dr. Agbessi recalled. In Dr. Agbessi’s country of Benin, there were no surgeons that could help the woman. Other people came together to raise the money to send the injured woman abroad to receive proper care. This story touched Dr. Agbessi’s heart,and through her perseverance, she eventually went on to become the first plastic reconstructive surgeon in all of Benin. Dr. Agbessi decided to pay the knowledge she had earned over her career forward by teaching in a Medical Capacity Building (MCB) mentoring program with Mercy Ships. There, she is able to work with and help train local medical professionals, offering knowledge and skills to help them succeed in their careers.
We are so thankful for these women and all of the women that are paving the way toward total access to safe, timely surgery. If you would like to know how you can serve alongside these women, visit to find your place on board!