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Thursday, September 24, 2009

World Maritime Day

Today is World Maritime Day
To celebrate this day, Mercy Ships ran an article featuring Tim.
(Click on each picture to enlarge)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Nathanael Shares a Song

Nathanael wants to share a song with you this week, he continues to share it with us EVERY meal time so we thought it would be nice for others to listen to him for a bit.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hevie Dormitory Opens

Located about 35km (22 miles) west from the port of Cotonou in a village called Hieve It is a piece of land that belongs to Bethesda, a local faith-based organization engaged in programs of health and social development. By coming alongside and partnering with Bethesda during this year’s outreach in Benin, Mercy Ships has helped develop this land into an agricultural training center called “Food for Life.” The purpose of the center is to train local workers in farming skills, teaching biblical organic agriculture skills in nutrition and crop production. Before the agricultural aspect of the project could begin, the construction of a training centre was needed, containing a lecture room for classes and an on-site dormitory to house 30 people where participants could reside whilst attending the “Food for Life” program. Both construction and agriculture fall under supplemental programs of the Health Care Development Department of Mercy Ships. The Construction Supervisor, was responsible for overseeing the entirety of the dormitory’s construction process. He went out to the site about three times a week, making sure that the site managers had everything they needed and that things were running smoothly, along with a bit of financial bookwork to make sure that the bills were paid. The main resources that were used, were all readily available in Benin, including cement, sand, gravel, steel, and timber. The dormitory is shielded by a zinc roof and glass windows. Bricks for the construction of the walls were made on-site, formed from sand and cement, and were moulded within seconds and then took about 3 days to dry.
Labour for the construction was contracted for a daily wage. There were 16 workers involved, 4 of which were skilled in carpentry and masonry. There was no difficulty in finding willing labourers, and most of them came from nearby churches. Mercy Ships tries to use people from the community to do as much of the work as possible, thereby empowering them to help themselves. But it's more than just providing job opportunities, Mercy Ships helps to train the labourers in new and unfamiliar building skills. For example, some of the workers who were doing steel bending had not necessarily done it before. Two of them were shown how to do it then they would go and show the others. The hope is that at the end, the workers would have sufficient skills to be able to go and work as carpenters or masons. During a project like this, challenges are inevitable, and time was the most pressing factor. The building needed to be finished within two months so that two agricultural programs could be conducted before the end of the outreach. Keeping the project within its budget was hugely important and the threat of flooding from the rainy season was a concern. Heavy rains could damage roads, limiting access to the site, and if the soil became too wet, digging would become difficult.
Last week a ceremony was hosted by Bethesda to commemorate the official opening of the Agriculture Training Center. The ceremony included performances from local choirs, as well as speeches from several notable guests, including the General Coordinator for Bethesda NGO, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, and Managing Director of the Africa Mercy, Ken Berry. The opening was attended by Mercy Ships crew, additional members of Bethesda NGO, and current “Food for Life” participants.
As you can see below the first session of the three-month program is already underway.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Our Hospitality Centre

"Who practices hospitality entertains God himself"
Approximately two blocks from the port of Cotonou, where the Africa Mercy is currently docked, is a warehouse. Since the early months from when we arrived in Benin, it has undergone a tremendous transformation. Now it is our Hospitality Centre (HC), it functions primarily as a non-medical, temporary housing unit for pre-and-post-op patients and their caregivers. It consists of two air-conditioned wards with room for 76 beds, as well as bathroom facilities containing showers and flushing toilets! The center also houses the Dockside OP Eye and Physical Therapy Units. Once patients have been screened and approved, they are generally admitted onto the ship the day before their surgery. However, sometimes patients are not strong enough or healthy enough to undergo a complex medical procedure. If this is the case, patients are admitted to the Hospitality Centre to stay until deemed fit for surgery. During this time, they will be given three healthy meals a day, clean drinking water, and a comfortable bed – complete with a mosquito net.
Likewise, once patients are stabilized after surgery and no longer need immediate care, they are moved to the Hospitality Center. They are able to return to the ship for daily or weekly treatment and follow-ups. Mercy Ships provides the transportation – a ship vehicle fitted with a light and siren and with sufficient space to carry a stretcher and five seated patients. It is on constant standby in case of an emergency. The major benefit of the Hospitality Center is that the beds in the ship’s hospital wards become available more quickly. This means that surgeons can perform more surgeries – and, ultimately, more people are helped. In other words, our impact is greatly increased! To construct the warehouse to its current state, walls were erected, roofs were constructed, and plumbing for bathrooms and toilets was installed. To make the area secure, a fence with security gates was put up around the property. Electrical wiring was laid for lights and air-conditioning. Because of regular power cuts in Cotonou, it was imperative to install a generator as a backup power supply. All this was achieved with the combined help of the Electrical and Construction Departments of the Africa Mercy, as well as the hard work of Mercy Teams that come from churches all around the world to work with the Ship for a few weeks. Everyday running involves the management of 8 day volunteers, 4 generator operators, and 4 security guards, as well as the coordination of patients and supplies to and from the ship. Teaching on basic nursing skills, as well as the overall care of the patients is also given to our day volunteers. This is a relatively new concept for Mercy Ships and so far it seems to be working well. The Hospitality Centre has already proved its effectiveness by accommodating women suffering with VVF who travelled from the north of Benin. Their recovery involves bed rest and before would take a bed up in the ward for 1-2 weeks. Also, little babies gain weight on a feeding program before they undergo corrective surgery, for example, a cleft lip. The Hospitality Center is already proving to be a valuable tool in delivering hope and healing to the world’s poor, and, if possible, will be implemented in future fields of service.