“Hope and healing” are the words to live by for all Mercy Ships workers, volunteers, doctors and nurses. Mercy Ships is a non-profit organization that provides free medical services, including life-saving surgeries, healthcare training and community development projects on the west coast of Africa.
My journey with Mercy Ships began in the classroom. I took a class focusing on intercultural service learning, and each student had to have a community service placement. I was lucky enough to be paired with Mercy Ships. For the past two months, I have been volunteering with Mercy Ships, even after the class ended.
This year, Mercy Ships Canada is starting up campus clubs throughout the country, including one at UVic. The club is called Mercy Ships: Waves of Change, and I am proud to be a part of it as it has just begun to blossom.
Although the club did not exist in time for UVic’s clubs and course unions day in September, there will be a booth set up for it in January. This year, the club plans to organize discount books for students to get deals all over Victoria; all of the proceeds will go towards Mercy Ships Canada.
Rachel Paterson is the co-founder for UVic’s Waves of Change club. She is excited to get the books up and running because she says she is hoping “that a portion of the sales will go towards sending someone on the boat.” Paterson is graduating at the end of April, so she hopes she can pass on the torch to another avid member. “Mercy Ships is such a valuable organization, and we hope to leave a lasting impression on UVic,” she says.
The other co-founder of the club is Olivia Guerra, who was a volunteer on the ship African Mercy in the summer of 2011 while it was docked in Sierra Leone. She first heard about Mercy Ships through a Rotary Club where Tim Maloney, executive director of Mercy Ships Canada, made a presentation in 2010. Immediately, she fell in love with the idea of participating on one of the ships. “When I first heard about Mercy Ships, I was so inspired by the stories of the people who had worked on the ship and those who had received surgeries — I felt that it was something that I needed to be a part of,” she says.
Guerra explains that one of the most powerful aspects wasn’t that they had provided hope for the community in Sierra Leone, but that the community’s own hope and faith were ever present, even in the worst of times. “I would love to go back and spend more time on the ship because it was a life-changing experience, and I felt so alive and passionate about the work I was doing and the people I was meeting every day,” says Guerra. “That is an experience I won’t soon forget.”
Guerra’s dream is to become a doctor, and seeing extensive surgeries while on the ship was an experience that she would most likely not have encountered in Victoria. During her days off, Guerra would go with some of the nurses to the houses of families who had a loved one in critical condition — not to heal, but to make that person’s passing more comfortable. Guerra says she felt exhausted after those excursions, even if she only visited one or two families, because the experience was so “real and raw.”
Guerra says she wishes to continue to make a difference and to inspire others to as well. “I don’t see a trip to Africa in my near future, but who knows what the next few years might bring,” says Guerra. “Life has a way of surprising me.”
To learn more about Waves of Change, contact Rachel Paterson at email@example.com.