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Friday, November 23, 2012

Presidents Visit

Last October (Sorry, we are still catching up with our news!) we had the opportunity to host the president of Guinea, His Excellency Professor Alpha Condé onboard the Africa Mercy.
It actually came at a bit of a surprise.  A French naval vessel was docked behind us and they had the big welcoming party with the French ambassador.  Then there was a lot of activity with a big band, lots of army men with guns, all the traffic in and out of the port was stopped and when that happens you know someone important is coming.  
The president arrived to tour the navy ship and during his tour he decided he was going to pay us a visit.  We had 2 hours notice and suddenly there was a flurry of activity on board.  Usually when we have presidents visiting it takes days of preparation and maybe in someways this way did save us some time.  Irons were red hot in the laundry room as crew ironed uniforms and dresses, cleaners were out with their vacuums, photographers running around with camera's, PR putting up back drops, preparing speakers, PA's locating their bosses because they had popped out for business ashore, Hospitality rounding up coffee cups and nibbles, finding tour guides, getting the ward patient's ready for a visit from their president, you name it went on.
One of our nurses, Rachel, explains the corrective procedure for cleft lips and palates, patients were facinated that they had a visit from their president.
President Condé toured the hospital, even one patient was surprised to wake up following her surgery to find the president standing at the end of her bed.  Following the tour the President and his entourage were escorted to the International Lounge for a presentation. Crew were present as a strong demonstration of appreciation and respect to the President and his government for enabling and supporting the Mercy Ships medical mission in Guinea.
Our Managing Director spoke with great sincerity about the improvement in health outcomes that Guinea has achieved over the past ten years, adding that, “Mercy Ships is pleased to be here to help with this progress. Through the direct specialized surgeries we will provide, along with capacity building, training and partnership activities, our goal is to increase the level of health care. We could not do this without the Government of Guinea.”
President Condé expressed his appreciation for how much he had learnt about Mercy Ships on his tour. “I now know that this is truly an international mission of over 1,000 volunteers coming during a field service – including 26 families with children. The people of Guinea are deeply thankful to the crew for the hard work, spirit of sacrifice and hope you bring here.”
Speaking with great emphasis, President Condé acknowledged the hope found in restorative surgeries. “People with deformities cannot live in the community. They are ashamed and they hide. When the great healing from Mercy Ships happens to them, it shows them, and everyone, that it does not matter what you look like today – there is always hope.” President Condé was especially grateful for Mercy Ships reaching out to Guineans living away from Conakry and also in hiding. “Mercy Ships will give them hope to come out of hiding.”
Following his presentation, President Condé concluded his visit by shaking hands with every Mercy Ships volunteer at the presentation. For all it was a great honor to receive the President’s personal thank you.
That evening Tim was watching the local news on the TV and the visit was showed on TV which was fun to watch after having seen it from the other side.  Click below to see part of that news report.

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