Wednesday 10 October 2018: Ally Joy will soon be on her way home to Lennox Heads after spending the last month volunteering on board a hospital ship docked on the coast of West Africa.

A mobile hairdresser in the Lennox Head/Byron Bay area, Miss Joy joined the crew on board the Africa Mercy, the world’s largest independent hospital ship, shortly after its arrival in Guinea.

Having first heard about Mercy Ships through a close surgeon friend who had previously volunteered, Miss Joy was immediately inspired to get involved.

“I got so moved I knew I had to go but I originally thought I’d have to train to be a nurse and do it later, but God had different plans as there’s one position as hairstylist.”

Miss Joy moved to Lennox Head ten years ago and recently travelled to Europe with plans to relocate for a year to be with her Belgian partner. But Mercy Ships remained on her heart.

“I’d looked at the position a few times before but as I sat in my room in Belgium after waiting months for a work visa that was proving difficult to receive, I prayed and felt God challenge me with the question, ‘What haven’t you done yet that you really know you’re meant to do?’ I knew straight away it was the ship.”

“After awaiting a Belgian visa and it taking too long I applied for the ship and thought I’ll see what happens. Five weeks later I was flying to Guinea.”

When staffing a hospital ship, a hairdresser isn’t the first need to spring to mind but it turns out to be a vital requirement for the hundreds of crew members who travel from around the world to volunteer for anything from two weeks to two years and even longer.

“At first I thought, ‘How important is a haircut in the scale of things?’ but after coming on board and seeing the woolly mops walking around I feel my role is a time for the crew to come and be refreshed physically and also be encouraged.”

The Africa Mercy hospital ship arrived in the port city of Conakry, Guinea, in August 2018 with plans to provide 2,500 life-changing surgeries on board, treat over 8,000 people at a land-based dental clinic and provide health care training to local medical professionals during 10 months in port.

Though serving in a non-medical role, Miss Joy has still had lots of opportunities to witness first-hand the transformations taking place on board.

“One thing that I personally found special was being able to be there when a patient woke up, hold his hand and pray for him. I’m aware of the patients who don’t have family with them and they are the ones I really feel for in this journey. That was special for me.”

“I love it so much. It’s my heart in so many ways and seeing the patients bravely come and trust the doctors moves me so much; our fears are small in comparison.”

Like all Mercy Ships volunteers, Miss Joy was responsible for covering the cost of travelling to Africa and expenses while on board.

She’d like to return to the ship soon if she can raise the finances. After being without a hairdresser for six months before her arrival, there is certainly still a need for Miss Joy’s skills on board the ship.

“I’m going to pray into and process my time here. I definitely want to give my heart to serve the poor and the sick.”

To support Ally’s Mercy Ships journey, visit


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

For further information, please contact:

Melissa Mason
National Office Manager
Mercy Ships Australia
(07) 5437 2992
[email protected]

High resolution photos are available upon request, with attribution to Mercy Ships.