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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tim's New Acting Career

Recently we attended the Africa Mercy Film Festival where all the crew dressed up in their best dress as if it was the oscars. The crew had been asked to submit movies that they had made to be shown and judged by a panel. The event has become a favourite date in the crew entertainment calendar and a great time was had by all. Micah Holden and Hannah Van Leeuwen won best film for their humorous depiction of life on the Mercy Ship. If you've been on the ship you will identify with a lot of it, if you haven't, you'll still find it funny especially when you get to the bit where Tim stars.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Gape Aloyi Village Visit

Recently we had the privilege of visiting the village Gape Aloyi. It's quite a long story how we have come in contact with a village that is quite remote and not something you would come across on a leisurely drive out in the country. During our time here we have come to know a French family, through the Navy, who are living in Togo. After an evening at their house we learnt of Gape Aloyi, a village that they had inherited from their predecessor but have also come to love and adopt as their own. The great thing about this village is that they want to make things work. An NGO had started building a Dispensary clinic, but left before it was finished taking the money with them. The village worked together and finished it off. They hired their own nurse and pay the wages between themselves. Often Government paid nurses are unreliable, if they don't get paid by the government they don't turn up. Money has also been raised and wells have been installed. Now they need a school.
To help fund this we attended a fundraising cheese event. The cheese was even flown in from France, along with the cheese maker. For us, the taste of the cheese in our mouths was amazing after not having quality cheese for ages and it was a good opportunity to meet more of the vast ex-pat community that lives here in Lome.
By now we were also getting enthusiastic for this village and wanted to see if there was anyway Mercy Ships could help. So we started on our 2-3 hours drive up north, along with our friends, the Jacobsen family, to make a visit.
(Alisia and Josh Jacobsen getting ready for a bumpy ride in the back of a landrover)
For this occasion Tim was one of the VIP guests, along with another French lady who had helped raise funds through the cheese event, so a grand ceremony was arranged on their behalf. On the way you soon knew you were getting off the beaten track as concrete houses turned to mud brick houses with naked kids and goats running around. Somehow life is a lot calmer and slower paced compared to the fast paced, technological world that we ourselves live in. We knew we were approaching Gape Aloyi when we saw our escort of motorbikes waiting to drive us in. We were welcomed with groups dancing and singing and excited at our arrival. We almost felt embarrassed that they would put on such a display for just us. We were met with a huge ornate umbrella with the village chief and his entourage standing beneath it.
Now for some of the rituals you might need a strong stomach to read this. The village priest first offered a drink which he spilt on the ground (if you were to drink it you would definitely need a strong stomach!).
Then they offered a live goat. You can see him standing in the welcoming entourage picture, awaiting his fate. They proceeded to cut the goats neck and spill the blood on the ground (we'll spare you the pictures-email us if you really must see them!) and then they hauled it off to cook ready for lunch. We were then led to a covered area where the women put on a great display of dancing and Tim was taken away to be "robed and crowned". The cloth is an expensive cloth, made only by virgin men and takes a lot of work, something we will treasure. We followed with speeches and fortunately there was a man in the village who had studied in Ghana and could speak English, so he was able to translate Tim's speech into the local language. Nathanael was amazing and very flexible during this time, whilst chomping on the ritz crackers that we had fortunately stuffed into our bag, as a last resort and then on the spot training on how to go to the toilet in a bush without a potty! We then followed on to have a tour of the dispensary clinic. The nurse there was doing his best with the resources he had available. Whilst we were there a lady was in labour with twins, but they said "oh it's a while yet". But when we returned to drop off some medical supplies that we had brought to give to them, she had just delivered them and they even brought them out for us to see within minutes of them breathing in their new African air. Two beautiful baby boys. Twins are very popular in this area, we will write about that in a separate post. It was nice to interact with some of the kids and mothers. They loved having their photo taken and when you showed it to them on the camera they would laugh out loud with delight.
We continued to see the site where they plan to build the school. As you can see their present school classrooms are just 4 shelters with a chalkboard at the end. They currently have 240 children and their dream is to raise money to build a proper school. We hope to be a small part of the dream. The children sang songs, giving us a warm welcome. By the end of this the goat was calling and was cooked and ready to eat. We sat down to a wonderful generous meal of goat meat, some kind of fu-fu and spaghetti noodles, followed by green oranges and banana's which tasted wonderful.
We parted, handing over gifts of a Mercy Ships T-shirt and Cap to the chief, he presented us with the left over, back end of the goat (RAW!) and a yam, along with the robe and crown worn by Tim.....they truly blessed us with so much when they have so little.
But it doesn't stop there; we had one more stop to make on the way back, to the chief's brother. His brother owned a small distillery for making palm wine. It's made from the palm tree and can blow your head of when you taste it.
His brother had his own little business making it and then a forest plantation of teak trees at the back growing for his "retirement". Quite a little enterprise! He, again, was very generous and presented us all with a bottle of palm wine (in volvic bottles).
Nathanael, on the other hand, just enjoyed dancing and playing in the dirt.
So there you have it, a taste of Togo life.......fancy living here?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Africa Mercy On ITV TV Channel

We thought you might be interested to see a series of short documentaries on the Africa Mercy that ran for a week on the ITV TV channel in the North East of England earlier in the year.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3 Part 4 Part 5

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Kossin Delou

Sixteen-year-old, Kossin Delou, spent four years of his life sheltered by his family and kept out of the public eye due to an enormous tumor that dominated the left side of his face. When the tumor first appeared, Kossin visited local hospitals in Lomé, Togo. But his family could not afford the necessary surgery. So, the tumor, which started from Kossin's upper jaw, continued to grow. It soon covered his eye, hindering his vision. As the insidious growth enlarged, Kossin's life became more difficult. Kossin's father is a local pastor, and the church is an important part of his family life. But people viewed the tumor as a curse, so Kossin's shame prevented him from attending church. In fact, the children who were once his friends now ridiculed him on the streets and at school. He even felt like an outsider among his own siblings. His emotional turmoil intensified as his dream for his future began to fade away. Kossin wanted to study at a university to become a teacher. He wanted to enrich the lives of children with knowledge and love. His grotesque facial deformity would prevent him from pursuing his education.
Then Kossin came to our hospital ship, the Africa Mercy . After many hours of surgery, he emerged with a newly constructed face.
Joy radiated from Kossin and his family. His father, Pastor Delou, says, "In this life each one of us needs help in some moments of our life. I can say that through Mercy Ships, we have found that help. You can have a bad story - but, before the end of your life , God will open a door and smile deep into your heart. I know that God is working through Mercy Ships for the best in my life and in Kossin 's life ." (3 weeks after surgery standing alongside his father, Pastor Delou) Kossin is ecstatic about his new life. He can go to church with his family and friends. He's no longer an object of ridicule. And - best of all - in September of 2010, Kossin will be able to start school to fulfil his resurrected dream of becoming a teacher.
Written by Joy Clary Edited by Nancy Predaina Photos by Debra Bell and Liz Cantu


You may have noticed things look a little different on the blog. We've been cracking the html code and having a shuffle around to reorganised our blog so instead of having alot of headings down the side menu, you can now access them from the navigation bar at the top, making life a lot easier.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Birthday Boys

The end of April and the beginning of May bring a special day for the boys in our family as we celebrate their birthdays. For Tim, if you find a museum it's guaranteed to be a hit, and it was! After picking up some tips from some of the ex-pats here, it was recommended to us to visit the Musee International Du Golf De Guinee that is situated on the main boulevard towards town. The museum consisted of the private collection of the trader and African arts expert, Mr.Rene David from Switzerland. He returned his collection to Africa and it has been added to by his wife Mme Enam David. Today, the museum happens to be the most popular one in Africa with pieces from different cultures of Africa. Our tour guide for the visit was Amoudji K. Junior who spoke excellent English so we were able to learn alot about the different masks, statues, jewellery, drums etc that we saw on display and get little more of an understanding of how and why these things are used in the African culture. Tim of course was in his element and we have the 100's of photo's to prove it!
(a tribal mask/gown)
(480 year old statue of a portuguese explorer)
(Ancient African drum, the old fashioned cell phone!)
We finished up at the local Lome fast food restaurant, Al Donalds, for lunch. Decor was a bit basic but the food didn't taste too bad. We had to give them 10 out of 10 for creativity for copying the MacDonalds sign.
Then Nathanael's birthday followed at the beginning of May. Somehow the museum wasn't his choice, but a Bob the Builder party sounded much more fun. So we got creative and did lots of googling to create a fun party for 9 kids.
(Nathanael in his Bob the Builder outfit)
Classic games included, pass the parcel, pin the tool on Bob and a "build a tower" scavenger hunt. They enjoyed a builders lunch of hotdogs, cement drinks, traffic light jelly/jello and hard hat birthday cake and went home with lots of Bob the Builder goodies that we had been organised enough to get when we were home in the UK last January. (ebay is our friend!).
(Kids making toolboxes)
The greatest idea we found was making t-shirts with all their faces on a Bob the Builders body, a great keepsake. We got the t-shirts at a bargain price of 50p and used iron on transfers.
All in all the kids went home happy and Nathanael still talks about it and we survived to live another year before we have to organize another one.
(the hard hat cake)

Monday, May 03, 2010

Presidential Visit

At the moment we seem to be playing a little catch up with our news. Life has been so busy that we just haven't got round to telling you about it.
Last month we had the privilege of having the President of Togo visit the Africa Mercy. We had about a days notice to get everything in place and many security guards turned up to stay overnight on the ship.
(Tim greeting the President at the gangway)
This is the spread that I happened to come face to face with when I walked into the crew galley as our hospitality team were working hard to make refreshments. for the visit.
All in all the president seemed very moved by his experience on board. Click below to view a video of his message to the crew.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

2011 Field Service Anounced

High we exalt thee, realm of the free Great is the love we have for thee Firmly united, ever we stand Singing the praise, our native land We raise up our hearts and our voices on high The hills and the valleys re-echo our cry Blessing & peace be ever thy own Land that we love our Sierra Leone

(Sierra Leone National Anthem) Recently Mercy Ships announced that our Field Service for 2011 will be in Sierra Leone. This will be the fourth time that Mercy Ships has delivered free world-class medical care to the impoverished West African nation. The protocols and Memoranda of Understanding have been signed. The agreement provides the necessary collaboration with the Sierra Leone government in regard to the port, security, water and sanitation. It also opens the door for the Mercy Ships Advance Team to do the preliminary work necessary for the upcoming Field Service.

Health care in Sierra Leone is unaffordable and often unavailable. The country ranks 180 out of 182 nations on the 2009 Human Development Index, and the majority of the population lives on less than $2 per day. Infant mortality in Sierra Leone is 159 per 1000 births as compared to the USA at 6.3 per 1000 births. Dental care is another illustration of the conditions within the country, with one dentist for every one million people, where as it's 6,000 dentists per million people in the USA Mercy Ships looks forward to their continued partnership with the West African Fistula Centre in Aberdeen founded in 2004. The clinic is now under the management of the Freedom from Fistuala Foundation. The Centre offers free surgeries to women suffering from childbirth-related injury and has the capacity to serve between 500 and 600 patients per year. The Africa Mercy will also serve as a platform for training African healthcare professionals and for community development teams. These programs ensure that the positive impact of Mercy Ships will continue long after the ship leaves Sierra Leone. Don Stephens, Mercy Ships Founder/President said, "Sierra Leone holds a special place in the heart of Mercy Ships. We are looking forward to building upon the foundation we established in 3 previous visits. The people of Sierra Leone started asking ‘when will your hospital ship come back to our country in the immigration and customs lines at the airport. Welcome Mercy Ships was the greeting of several officials. You help our people. Please come back!’"

(The famous Bat tree in the middle of town, bats can be seen hanging there all day)

For Sharon it will be a special time as this was her first Field Service when she joined Mercy Ships in 2001 and was captured by the sweet nature of the Sierra Leoneons, even now she can almost hum the tune to their national anthem. In 2001 the civil war was just ending and poverty was at it's lowest. It will be interesting to see if there have been any changes during the last 10 years.