Mercy Ships Africa Blog

Mercy Ships Celebrates Lasting Impact in 2023

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Mercy Ships provided 3,295 surgeries for patients like Malang in 2023. Of those surgeries, 1,437 took place on board the Global Mercy™ during field services in two ports – Freetown and Dakar. The ship served patients from three countries – Senegal, The Gambia, and Sierra Leone. This work was only possible thanks to more than 1,318 skilled volunteers from over 67 countries, including 660+ Senegalese, Gambian, and Sierra Leonean national crewmembers.

From Crewmember to Caregiver: Ngordy’s Mercy Ships Story

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Ngordy Sow was working as a national interpreter with Mercy Ships in his home country of Senegal when he received his next assignment. He was asked to care for a new patient, a young boy named Mamadou, who was on board the Africa Mercy® to receive surgery for a painful hernia. When Ngordy arrived in the ward to start his shift, he was in for a surprise.

Meet the “Faithful Servant” of the Mercy Ships Rehab Team

While the Africa Mercy® and Global Mercy™ were docked in Senegal, volunteer physical therapists from all around the world came on board for months at a time to offer their skills and expertise. More than 350 patients came across many different volunteers on the physical rehabilitation team – but there was one familiar face that almost every patient met: Mame Birame Sy.

Finding Light in the Darkness: Umu’s Story

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Have you ever met someone whose eyes dance when they talk? That’s the very first thing everyone notices when they encounter 3-year-old Umu. Her aunt, Fatmata, has always been amazed by Umu's effortless ability to make friends, regardless of where she goes. “She’s a very brave girl,” Fatmata shared. “She's intelligent. She’s a fast learner.” But although this contagious joy is Umu’s trademark now, it wasn’t always this way. Her birth came with an unexpected twist as she entered the world with a benign tumor growing from the side of her face and neck. This was a shock to her mother, Yei, who’d had no reason to expect anything other than a healthy baby girl. Seeing her firstborn with the growth was utterly devastating.

Life-changing Healing for Samba

After 56 years with a cleft lip, it took just a two-hour surgery to change Samba’s life and unleash his God-given potential.   Samba, a widower with four children, worked as a cattle farmer in rural Senegal, where he faced discrimination due to his lifelong condition.  He had grown used to his cleft lip drawing unwanted attention. Physical attacks were so commonplace that Samba couldn’t guess how many times they had happened. 

Discover the Changing Tide of Dental Care in Guinea

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In October 2022, five dental students from Guinea boarded a plane to Casablanca, Morocco. The following year, they were joined by another. These young dentists form the pilot group of Mercy Ships’ dental education sponsorship program – a new program focused not just on providing care in the here and now but changing surgical systems for good. 

The Future Holds Great Promise: Diarra’s Story

For 25-year-old Diarra, stepping into the operating room of the Africa Mercy® was a moment more than a decade in the making. She had been looking for healing for a facial tumor for almost half her life.  “I feel so good inside my heart,” she exclaimed about her opportunity for surgery. “I have been to many different doctors, but they couldn't heal it.”  She couldn’t recall when the tumor began to grow. All she remembers is being a teenager and experiencing a toothache that led to a small growth. From there, “it just kept getting bigger.” Diarra’s parents took her to several hospitals. Each visit was a step in an uphill battle, made harder by their meager earnings as small-scale farmers. Medical costs loomed large, forcing them to choose between caring for their other children or seeking healing for their daughter. Eventually, they stopped looking. 

Face-to-Face after Decades: Catherine and Aly Reunite on the Global Mercy™

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The last time Catherine Conteh saw the deeply familiar smile in front of her in Freetown, it was under dramatically different circumstances.  Fresh off the plane from Australia on Sunday, Catherine arrived on the dock beside the Global Mercy™ where she was greeted by Aly Hogarth-Hall – a face she had not seen in person for 30 years. Without Aly, the last 30 years – as well as the life of her daughter and her grandson – might not have even been possible. 

Meet Emmanuel, the First Patient of the Sierra Leone Field Service

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On Tuesday, September 12, Emmanuel was brought into one of the operating rooms of the Global Mercy™, where he became the very first patient to receive surgery during the field service in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The significance of this moment was not lost on him. Emmanuel, who had just celebrated his 43rd birthday a few days earlier, felt that the timing had turned his birthday month into something extraordinary. “It is a double portion of blessings,” he celebrated. A tumor on his neck began as a minor concern, a flicker of worry that he hoped would fade away with time.