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Victorian hand therapist returns from volunteering in West Africa

Wednesday 27 February 2019: Royal Melbourne Hospital occupational and hand therapist Jane Frisken has returned home to Mitcham after spending three months volunteering in West Africa.

Mrs Frisken said it was the blessing of her good education and the opportunity to be part of the recovery process for patients in need that motivated her to join the Mercy Ships organisation on board their hospital ship.

“It was the first time I have been to Africa and I was travelling alone so the trip was quite an adventure.”

“My luggage went missing but so many terrific people on board assured me that it would turn up and, sure enough, it appeared five days later!”

The Africa Mercy 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.

“I worked as a hand therapist with the rehabilitation team and plastic surgeons.”

“This involved providing therapy for children and adults who had plastic surgery. Many of these people have sustained severe burns and have not had access to safe, affordable, and timely care.”

“My work with numerous plastic surgery units and a couple of burns units in Australia was a great background for this role on the ship.”

“I felt very much needed and appreciated by the team I worked with, as well as by the patients and their relatives.”

Mrs Frisken said the people of Guinea face many challenges but are happy people with a great sense of family and community.

“One of the outstanding memories for me is being part of the plastic surgery screening day and watching a father carry his son in, sit down in front of us, then weep with relief and happiness that finally his son was getting some help.”

“Mercy is all about love in action and I saw this happening all around me in huge ways every day.”

“Even though I don’t know French, and definitely don’t know the village languages, we had an amazing team of local people helping us as translators.”

“The Guineans love music and dancing. I’ve never before worked in a hospital where I can sing and dance with patients each morning!”

With great support from friends and family at home in Melbourne, including her husband and three adult children, Mrs Frisken left the ship with an eye on returning in the future.

“During my first few days on board so many people asked, ‘So when are you coming back?’”

“It was incredibly hard to leave my patients and the ship community.”

“I won’t know the outcome for some of my patients, but I do know that they are all so thankful for the love and compassion they’ve experienced on board.”

END

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:

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.