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Volunteer Trip to Africa a Humanising Experience for Canberra Nurse

Thursday 2 February 2017: Therese Knight has returned home to Kaleen after her second trip to Africa to serve on board the world’s largest independent hospital ship.

An intensive care nurse at Canberra Hospital, Mrs Knight joined the volunteer crew of the Africa Mercy for six weeks this time in the West African nation of Benin after last serving with international medical charity Mercy Ships in Madagascar in 2015.

“It is my personal response to the deeper question of what does one do in the face of the world’s poverty and need,” Mrs Knight said.

“What does an individual do? What difference can one person make? Mercy Ships gives me the opportunity to make a difference.”

Having lived and worked in Israel, Swaziland, Guatemala and Bolivia, Mrs Knight always held the dream of returning to development work.

“One of my sons thinks I am a hero, working in a modern M.A.S.H unit! Otherwise people are intrigued.”

“Imagine a job where every day you change someone’s life, where you see a disfigured face or body made beautiful again and where this is only first of many transformations.”

“After a lifetime of rejection and being outcast, patients transform in front of you from being withdrawn and frightened to finding their voice and confidence to join in with others.”

“It is a profoundly humanising thing to be part of.”

The Africa Mercy arrived in Benin in August. During the current 10-month field service docked in the port city of Cotonou, Mercy Ships plans to provide more than 1,700 surgeries to adult and paediatric patients, to treat over 8,000 people at a land-based dental clinic, and to provide training and mentoring to Beninese health care professionals.

“The medical and nursing team work well, despite the high turnover of both. It should not work, it should not be so cohesive but it is the best team I have ever worked with.”

“For all that has been written and talked about in our medical and nursing courses in Australia, patient centred care is still not generally practiced. On the Mercy Ship it is unavoidable.”

“The patients’ spiritual and emotional lives are strong features of our care. On a daily basis the patients sing and give thanks, led by guitars and other rhythmical instruments. Even at a physiological level the reduced stress hormones and elevated feel good hormones aid in healing. “

“And it’s not just for patients. The mood in the staff is elevated as well. We learn the songs and dance with the patients. It gives the patients something to look forward to every day.”

“We cannot fix the problems of unemployment and poverty. They still earn an average of $1 per day but they can experience joy, belonging and a dignity not felt before.”

“There is always another incredible life story to hear. There is always someone to hang out with, always someone new to get to know.”

“I love the experience of community, ideologically united, with a general predisposition not to be the centre of your own life, a willingness to try and get along – all for the sake of bringing hope to Benin.”

Mrs Knight now has plans to return to serve with Mercy Ships every second year.

“If I have health, time and money how can I not be part of this amazing work?” she said.

END

About Mercy Ships

Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class healthcare 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]