Healing in Madagascar: Muriella’s Journey of Hope  

Nestled atop a hill with breathtaking views and strong gusts of wind is a village in the heart of Madagascar. Just a six-hour drive from the capital of Antananarivo or Tana, where most of the island’s population live, the village is a sharp contrast to Tana – with only a few hundred inhabitants. 

This village is where 26-year-old Muriella lives with her husband, Tsory. However, Muriella’s unique story stands out from the rest of her small community. About a decade ago, at the age of 17, Muriella had a tumor slowly growing on the left side of her face. 

Muriella says she was shunned at school because of this tumor. “I would come home often in tears because the other kids at school told me I was contagious,” Muriella recalls. “Only my two sisters stood by me and loved me unconditionally and that helped me a lot.” 

Then, in 2015, Mercy Ships arrived in Madagascar to begin providing free surgical care on board its hospital ship, the Africa Mercy®. Muriella was one of hundreds of patients who had an opportunity to receive surgery on board – but it was a decision heavily debated within her family. One of Muriella’s cousins had died following post-operative complications at a local hospital a few years prior, leaving the rest of the family wary. Her grandfather was strongly opposed to the idea of surgery, but Muriella’s mother was hopeful and asked her to go for the surgery. 

“I didn’t think much about it at the time,” Muriella remembers. “But in retrospect, I realize how very different my life would have turned out if I hadn’t received the surgery from Mercy Ships. I would very likely not have all the things I now have in life if I hadn’t received the surgery back then and maybe I won’t even be here.” 

Now, nearly a decade has passed. Muriella met her husband, Tsory, after the tumor on the side of her face had been removed. Although he never saw her with the tumor in person, Tsory says he’s heard her stories: “She did tell me about some kind people who helped her by giving her treatment.” 

Muriella, now the mother to a 3-year-old son, is very optimistic about her family’s future. After the couple got married, they began a grocery store together, and today they have dreams of expanding their business. “I really want us to have our own farm and rear animals… There is so much competition running a grocery store here in the village as there are several shops around,” shared Muriella. 

The couple’s son is their source of inspiration. Every weekend, Muriella makes the 40-minute drive to the nearby city where her son lives with Muriella’s mother. “We felt that it is best for him to live with my mother and that way he would attend a better school and have more opportunities in life than the village,” she explained.  

Muriella had wanted to attend university and become a lawyer, but her plans changed after she got married and made her family her priority. However, with her health restored, the dream of continuing her education lives on: “I want to take a course in business management,” she says. “That way I can better manage the business and livestock farm that my husband and I plan to open.” 

Muriella’s filled with dreams for her little boy, too. “My desire is for my son to choose his own path,” she said with a smile. “But if it were up to me, I’d love for him to become a pilot – that way he can take me to travel and see the world, especially the city of Dubai!” 

Even though she lives in a remote village in the heart of the island, Muriella knows that there is a whole world out there beyond the horizon, and she understands the need to interact with other cultures. This desire made her start taking English language lessons after she’d received healing for her tumor. Even though it’s been years since those lessons, Muriella still remembers some of the language she learned and was able to say, “Thank you Mercy Ships.” 

Nearly a decade after the 2015 field service, Mercy Ships has returned to Madagascar to provide more hope and healing to people like Muriella. More than 1,000 surgeries are scheduled to take place, as well as education, training, and advocacy programs designed to strengthen the nation’s surgical care system long term.  

Could you see yourself being part of the life-changing transformation to come in Madagascar? There are still open opportunities to volunteer with the Africa Mercy in a variety of roles – learn more about how to find your place on board today.