Ngordy Sow was working as a national interpreter with Mercy Ships in his home country of Senegal when he received his next assignment. He was asked to care for a new patient, a young boy named Mamadou, who was on board the Africa Mercy® to receive surgery for a painful hernia.
When Ngordy arrived in the ward to start his shift, he was in for a surprise. Mamadou and his mother were no strangers – they were Ngordy’s aunt and cousin!
“It was unexpected,” marveled Ngordy. “It just shows that everything can change at any time in life.”
Starting with Hope
Ngordy was the one who introduced Mamadou to Mercy Ships back in 2019, after first coming on board as an interpreter in the Hospital Outpatient Extension (HOPE) Centre. There, Ngordy used his experience translating a dozen languages to serve patients while they waited for, and recovered from, their life-changing surgeries.
While visiting his extended family for the holidays, deep in Senegal’s northern countryside, Ngordy discovered that his cousin Mamadou’s hernia had returned, despite a previous surgery at a national hospital. Ngordy forwarded his information to Mercy Ships – but, before Mamadou could receive surgery, Mercy Ships left Senegal as a result of world events surrounding COVID-19. Mamadou, like so many others had no choice but to put their hopes on hold.
When the Africa Mercy returned in 2022, Ngordy volunteered in the hospital ward. He took every opportunity to learn and continue expanding his skills: “It will help me have new opportunities, new discoveries—meeting a lot of people coming from all corners of the world, learning from them, and then also sharing with them what they want to know about me and my country.” said Ngordy. He became widely regarded for reliance and efficiency, taking every opportunity to learn and expand his skills.
For Ngordy, working with Mercy Ships was also a chance to further develop the leadership abilities he’d developed through previous ventures, which included dedicating three years to opening a school in his family’s village, a place with no electricity or water. Disheartened by the dire conditions there that often forced young girls into marriage and boys living on the streets, Ngordy had felt called to “open the school to save this generation of kids.” Ultimately, 166 children enrolled.
While using his servant heart on the Africa Mercy, Ngordy had no idea that Mamadou was coming on board the very same hospital ship. But the preoperative team quickly realized that Mamadou’s case would be complex – not due to his condition, but due to his caregiver. Mamadou’s mother, Aldiouma, had brought him on board, but she had to disembark frequently to receive her own treatment at a local hospital for high blood pressure. For safety purposes, Mamadou had to leave with his mother as Mercy Ships requires all pediatric patients on board to be accompanied by a caregiver.
The preoperative team decided to assign the case to Ngordy, trusting he would be the perfect person to handle the complicated situation.
Bringing Hope and Healing in a New Way
After reuniting and learning about Mamadou’s struggles, Ngordy didn’t hesitate. He hung up his scrubs and offered to become Mamadou’s caregiver for the duration of his time on board. Aldiouma was sad to leave her son, but she trusted Ngordy to keep him safe while she received her own care.
To be a caregiver is a full-time commitment. It meant Ngordy would temporarily give up his job as a translator and sleep on board the Africa Mercy, in the designated cot beneath Mamadou’s hospital bed. But Ngordy was filled with joy at this unexpected opportunity to take care of his cousin.
“I was happy to look after the boy,” Ngordy shared. “He calls me ‘father’ because I’m the namesake of his father who has passed away.” Even if Mamadou had not been his relative, Ngordy says he would happily have done the same, because his own motivation was clear: “Doing what we can do to help other people.”
Experiencing Mercy Ships from the caregiver’s perspective gave Ngordy a fuller picture of the care that patients receive. “As a day crew, I serve the caregivers, but now, I am being served. It allows me to have a different view of the environment,” he explained. “When I see another patient and caregiver, it means more to me now. I see myself there because I’ve been there.”
Ngordy’s sacrifice meant that Mamadou was able to stay on board long enough to recover safely from his surgery. Now home together, Aldiouma happily shared that Mamadou is healthy, active and loves cycling.
Stepping Into a New Role
After Mamadou’s departure, Ngordy stepped back into his role as national interpreter, this time helping the communications department tell stories of the life-changing work happening on board. He continued in that role on the Global Mercy™ in 2023 until the ship left Senegal.
As Ngordy’s time with Mercy Ships ended, he reflected, “This is the best thing I have done so far in my life.”
For Ngordy, experiences like this drive him forward. “I want to do more. This is just the beginning and I want to keep this going—keep helping people, doing what I can. I cannot do great things, but I can do small things and doing in small things, we can try to do what we can in a great way.”
Want to use your skills to help those who need it most? There are so many opportunities to bring hope and healing with Mercy Ships, alongside international crewmembers like Ngordy. Find your purpose and find your place on board – apply today.