Monday 30 July 2018: David and Julia Graham are back home in Emerald after spending the last three months volunteering their time with the international medical charity Mercy Ships on board the world’s largest civilian hospital ship.
“In my working life I was a surgical nurse, so naturally I have been inspired by the work of the Mercy Ship,” Mrs Graham said.
Mr and Mrs Graham first travelled to southern Africa for a sightseeing tour before joining the Africa Mercy in the Central African nation of Cameroon to serve as dining room assistants on board.
They then sailed with the ship to Senegal for a quick state visit before continuing on to the ship’s current maintenance location in the Canary Islands, where it is undergoing annual repairs and being restocked before beginning it’s next field service in Guinea, West Africa in mid-August.
“We did a little bit of reading about Cameroon before we left. We understood that it is not the safest place on the planet.”
“Although we only spent one week in Cameroon before we sailed, it gave us a glimpse of life in West Africa. The good relationships built with the ship and its crew were evident, and we heard many wonderful stories of successful operations and lives changed.”
Their role on board was an important one, Mrs Graham recalled.
“I believe we were a very small cog in a big wheel. We were serving the servers, in providing meals and a pleasant and clean environment where the other crew could meet and share a meal.”
“We served ‘behind the scenes’ in an area which is not high profile, but important nonetheless. The crew needs to be well fed and well-nourished, so they can do their work.”
The Africa Mercy arrived in the port city of Douala, Cameroon, in August 2017 and provided almost 3,000 life-changing surgeries on board, treated over 20,000 people at a land-based dental clinic and provided health care training to local medical professionals during 10 months in port.
“Our family was quite shocked at first that we would want to do it but once they learnt more about the work of Mercy Ships, they were very enthusiastic and excited for us,” Mrs Graham recalled.
“Our friends were similarly surprised that we would wish to work on the ship but became very interested and supportive when they knew more. In fact, some expressed a desire to join us.”
“It is still important to have adventures at our age!”
“We have seen Africa for the first time. We have been challenged in many ways. We have seen the wonderful works of God in the surgical repairs done for the poor on the ship through the loving volunteers.”
“The volunteer crew are amazing people and have demonstrated their love for God and for others through their service. They accepted us and encouraged us in our work and we made new friends from many nations.”
“I feel so privileged to have been given the opportunity to travel to Africa to serve on the Africa Mercy.”
The Grahams are now picking up family life back home where they left it three months ago, with new stories to tell and experiences to share.
“I plan to encourage others to apply to serve in any way they can. I will always treasure this experience!”
About Mercy Ships
Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class health care services, capacity building and sustainable development aid to those without access in the developing world. Founded in 1978, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1.3 billion, with more than 2.56 million direct beneficiaries. Each year, more than 1,200 volunteers from over 40 nations serve with Mercy Ships. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, health care trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time. Mercy Ships Australia, one of 16 international support offices, is based on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. For more information, visit www.mercyships.org.au
For further information, please contact:
National Office Manager
Mercy Ships Australia
(07) 5437 2992
High resolution photos are available upon request, with attribution to Mercy Ships.