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South Turramurra woman sets sail for Central Africa

Tuesday 12 September 2017: Hailing from South Turramurra, 23-year-old Rachel Thompson has taken leave from her job at Pymble Ladies’ College and travelled to Cameroon in Central Africa to volunteer on board the world’s largest civilian hospital ship, Africa Mercy.

Miss Thompson graduated with a degree in commerce with a major in Human Resources from the University of Sydney before working in a variety of HR roles including medical institutions, all of which helped prepare her for her role as HR Facilitator on the ship.

On board Miss Thompson coordinates the comings and goings of clinical and surgical volunteers who come to the ship from all over the world.

The idea of volunteering with Mercy Ships, the international non-profit that operates the Africa Mercy, first came from a “throw away” comment made by Miss Thompson’s cousin who had previously volunteered.

It didn’t take long for her to research the idea and begin her own application.

Miss Thompson admits she did initially have fears for her health and safety in regards to travelling to Sub-Saharan Africa, but they quickly dissipated.

“Those fears were futile, and I am glad they did not hinder me from coming,” she said.

Reactions to Miss Thompson’s decision to leave Australia were mixed; while the majority were positive, some people didn’t understand why she would forego time and income to volunteer for ten months in Africa.

All staff on board the hospital ship are volunteers, ensuring all donations go directly to providing health care for the world’s poorest people. Miss Thompson sees this work as crucial.

“The proportion of medical professionals to the rest of the population is low. Further, some medical specialties are not performed in-country,” Miss Thompson said.

“The country also experiences civil unrest towards the north and on the borders, the daily wage is low, and many are living close to or below the poverty line”.

Despite having over 60 new nurses and health care volunteers arrive since she herself arrived on board three weeks ago, Miss Thompson has been doing well to remember names, faces and hometowns.

“Being in HR, I feel it is important to welcome and get to know those you will be working with,” she said.

Growing up in a Christian home and attending St Phillips Turramurra, Miss Thompson’s faith is also a part of why she chose to serve.

“We are called to be Jesus’s hands and feet, and to help others.”

As a result of the experience with Mercy Ships, Miss Thompson says she already has greater confidence in the impact that can be made by helping people.

“[I have] more confidence to engage in local missions in my home city, and eagerness to continue working in service based organisations,” she said.

Miss Thompson returns to Australia in June 2018 and is eager to continue supporting Mercy Ships and assisting those who wish to apply.

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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:

Melissa Mason
National Office Manager, Mercy Ships Australia
[email protected]