Leaving her comfortable eight-to-five job at Mount Medical Centre, nurse Sophie Whitfield will work round-the-clock when she volunteers on a mercy ship to help provide healthcare in Senegal, West Africa.
Mercy Ships is an international charity organisation that provides free healthcare to African children and adults who don’t have access to such services.
Having heard about the group through work friends, the 28-year-old was keen to get on-board.
With nearly eight years’ nursing experience and a surgical nursing background, Sophie is looking forward to volunteering on the ship’s children’s ward come June.
“When patients come out of their surgeries, I will be recovering them by making sure they’re comfortable, looking after their surgical wounds, managing IV medications, and generally rehabilitating them so they can get back to their normal day-to-day life.
“[And] Hopefully, putting some big smiles on their faces while I’m at it too,” says Sophie.
The surgeries performed on the mercy ship largely involve “plastic reconstruction of burns and tumours, hernias, cleft lips, and orthopedic abnormalities,” says Sophie.
Change of pace
Aboard the African Mercy ship for two months, Sophie will work all types of shifts – some being 11pm until 7am.
“It will not be what I’m used to because I’ve been in a pretty cushy role up until now, so it’ll be quite challenging,” says Sophie, who is accustomed to her “nice eight-till-five hours”.
This doesn’t bother her however, with her saying “it’s all for such a good cause”.
“We’re so blessed to have the healthcare that we have in New Zealand – we just take it for granted,” says Sophie.
“So it’ll be really cool to use my skills that I’ve gained to work alongside the Senegalese people that don’t have easy access to healthcare.”
A different culture
Among nursing challenges, Sophie will also be faced with a completely unfamiliar culture while volunteering abroad.
“Immersing myself in a new culture will be such an experience in itself and learning all their ways,” says Sophie.
“They’re French-speaking in Senegal so I’ll have to have translators because my French is minimal, so that will be a huge challenge.”
Despite this, Sophie feels reassured, saying: “I’ve heard that the Senegalese population are just the most grateful, happy and resilient population you’ll ever meet”.
Sophie leaves for Senegal, West Africa, on June 2, to board the Mercy ship to start work on June 6.
She has to raise money herself for travel crew fees and living expenses on this volunteering expedition.
To support Sophie and the Mercy Ships’ cause, visit: https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/mercy-ship-volunteering-senegal-africa-2022
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