Monday 5 June 2017: Born in the Philippines, Perth nurse Adelaida Oakdon sees volunteering as a great way to learn how to understand where others are coming from and to challenge one’s own fears.
She recently returned from a short stint working on board the world’s largest charity hospital, docked off the coast of West Africa, inspired by the crisis in health care around the world she observes in the news every day.
Ms Oakdon says she has always volunteered in the past, but mostly in the Philippines. There she helped with post-cyclone relief, taught basic hygiene to children in remote villages, and cared for the elderly in one of the few aged care facilities in her birth country.
She says she had a longing to serve with Mercy Ships since 2009 and had been saving funds for just such a time as this when the opportunity presented itself.
But she admits that although she desperately wanted to serve on the Mercy Ship, she was nervous about going to West Africa for the first time.
“I didn’t know what to expect about the people of Benin. I was a little concerned about safety with regards to religion and culture and also knowing that it wasn’t that long ago that the Ebola crisis happened in West Africa, although it was never in Benin,” said Ms Oakdon.
During her stay on board, her experience overruled her concerns.
“The patients and their relatives I came across within the ship were kind, polite, brave, humble and were always smiling. They were patient, accepting and embracing of us as much as we embrace and accept them,” she reflected. “I cannot wait to return again to serve if I am given the opportunity.”
“The best thing about my decision to serve is fulfilling my passion as a nurse. The worst thing is seeing the effect of lack basic health care access in a country like Benin.”
“I saw the sheer size of tumours, as big as melons. I saw so many blind people due to cataracts, women’s health problems – these could mostly have been avoided at early stages if basic health care was accessible,” she said.
The 46-year-old said she especially felt grateful to use her specific skillset on board the Mercy Ship.
“My position as PACU nurse was important because all post-op patients receiving anaesthesia have to be recovered before going to the ward or home. We managed the post operation pain and we made sure our patients were comfortable. However every crew member on the ship from galley to the bridge know that if they don’t do their job, we can’t do ours,” she stated.
And what is the result of this leap of faith? “I think my future now lies in volunteering – in any capacity I can, whether it’s local or abroad,” she said confidently.
“I am eager go back to my day job as an RN at Fiona Stanley Hospital and save money again to be able to serve again in the near future.”
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:
National Office Manager, Mercy Ships Australia