Wednesday 1 February 2017: When Wantirna South nurse Emily Fortune returned home from a volunteer trip to Africa in 2015, she felt she had left a part of her behind.

“My heart ached to return to serve again,” Miss Fortune said.

So in October last year she headed back to Africa to serve with the international medical charity Mercy Ships on board the world’s largest independent hospital ship once again.

“I have always wanted to volunteer as a nurse abroad and use my skills to help others. I remember researching volunteer organisations that I could serve short term and use my critical care skills with and found Mercy Ships.”

Having served during Mercy Ships’ previous field service in Madagascar, Miss Fortune this time travelled to Benin, West Africa, to join the Africa Mercy’s volunteer crew as an ICU nurse for two months.

“Before serving in Madagascar and Benin I had done a lot of research into the history and safety of the countries.”

“I didn’t have any fears or doubts and once on board I realised that there is such a close community on board that everyone looks out for each other.”

“It was really hard to leave my fiancé, family and friends at home, but the crew on the Africa Mercyhave become a second family and home for me.”

The Africa Mercy arrived in the West African nation of 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 people we look after have often had their medical conditions for years and years but have had no access to surgical care. Most of what we see are conditions that can be treated with surgery and these surgeries change their lives. “

“Being there when they take their bandages off and seeing their face for the first time since a large tumour has been removed is like nothing else. Sharing such important parts of their journey with them is indescribable.”

A critical care nurse at Royal Melbourne Hospital, Miss Fortune isn’t sure when she decided to become a nurse.

“My mother has always worked in caring professions and my father a secondary school teacher. They are both extremely caring people and I think that influenced my path into nursing.”

“Training and working in a large medical/surgical intensive care unit I have always felt that I have developed and grown as a nurse in a work environment full of experienced nurses and supportive staff.”

“However, despite this, I didn’t know what to expect before arriving on the ship. I had faith that I was sent there for a reason and knew that I would be welcomed into a community that would support me throughout my service.”

Now back home, Miss Fortune has a wedding to plan and says she’ll return to serve with Mercy Ships again whenever she can.


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

For further information, please contact:

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