There is so much to describe it can be overwhelming… let me start by describing what I do and what we are doing here.
What I Do
I work on the Mercy Ships Anastasis which is in Ghana providing specialized health care and community development services. I work in the communications department of the ship, and although I wear many hats, I manage the ship’s website (sorry not available off the ship, but I’m working on it – its on my screen in the photo) do media liaison work, and manage our photo library.
The communications department has six people, two of which are photographers, so we have terrific photos of all we do. We also have three writers who turn out some great stories on all that goes on here.
What goes on here is that we have a constant entry of patients, who are mostly from Ghana coming to the ship for specialized surgeries in Maxillo Facial, (anything from the neck up), Vesico Vaginal injuries resulting from giving birth, plastic surgeries, eye surgeries (mostly cataracts) and dental surgery.
Describing those patients I will leave for another post as I’m getting ahead of myself. I work Monday through Friday in the ‘Comms’ department, pulling all this together for our website and generally trying to break down some long standing communication barriers that exist in the organization. I have weekends free, but many people on the ship work in shifts, so they have some days on some off.
On the ship, there are lots of different types of jobs, but we are all volunteer, and in fact, pay a monthly fee to cover our room and board to be here. Its insane, kind of like the whole life on the ship, but you somehow get used to it.
There are people who work in the galley (kitchen), dining room serving our food; housekeeping keeps the ship clean; IT does what IT does around the world, except they really have nothing to work with in terms of supplies, they must cannibalize everything; talk about shoestring — I think our whole network is held together with duck tape and blue tack. Anyway, jobs — there’s transportation that takes care of our landrovers; community development services builds buildings, digs wells and trains women in microenterprise jobs.
We of course, have a maritime crew of officers, engineers, and deck crew. Engineers take care of the machines of the ship, deck takes care of all the cargo, and upper deck aspects of the ship. We have a captain, who is in charge of the ship itself, and by maritime law, is ultimately in charge of our safety, as well, we are seamen who sign ship’s articles. But we are also a Nonprofit/NGO/Mission organization and so have management staff as well. They run the programmatic parts of the ship.
We also have a hairdresser, a librarian and a school with teachers for the kids of the crew. We have families on board. Sometimes it seems we have so many people to do what we do, but you begin to see its all necessary.
Through all this we also have medical crew: nurses make up the greatest number of medical crew, but we have lab and x-ray technicians and of course doctors, but really, only a handful. They are surgeons who specialize in our surgeries and come for a short time.
Where We Live
We all live on this big boat, a beautiful boat, that was built in 1953 in Trieste, Italy and used for years as a long distance oceanliner, called the Victoria. In 1978 it was going to be scrapped and the newly found Mercy Ships bought it for scrap value and renamed it the Anastasis, meaning resurrection. It took years to get it refitted into its current state and even longer to get it running as a working hospital ship in programmatic terms.
The lovely Anastasis has wood paneling, original hand blown glass lamp shades and beautiful lines on the water. It has five massive holds that can hold all of our 13 Land Rovers when we sail, (if you can believe it) and tons (literally) of supplies we need for our work. It has massive water tanks. These features were from its days when it was a long distance carrier, going from Italy to Hong Kong. It could load up and go. Its said to be a beautiful handler on the water as well, smooth and steady.
However, our lovely ship is wearing out. Used for twice as long as it was ever supposed to, the pipes are literally rusting out (our toilet water is brown) ceilings are patched and peeling, and stuff just stops working from time to time.
I’ll post some pictures later, but leave it for now that the poor lady’s ready for some rest. We joke sometimes about the ship being disposable at this point in terms of damage/useless to repair because we’ve been ’emminently’ waiting for the new ship, the Africa Mercy to come sailing through our headwaters, but unfortunately its been a never ending series of disappointments from the shipyard. Now we are sailing the Anastasis to Liberia February 25 and it will be meeting up with the Africa Mercy there, but we are all doubtful that it will be ready by June.
Life on Ship
We all live in tiny cabins and so space and who gets what room/cabin mates is always a touchy issue (like office space at work). We eat in a common dining room, three meals a day. I can do a whole post on just food alone: we pretty much eat the very same thing all the time, and although they give us healthy choices, its become very repetitive. And as you can imagine, its always easy to complain about the food because its an easy target. Our galley has very limited choices as they are always out of everything, so it takes creative cooks to do well, and some of our cooks are not so creative.
Life on board is kind of like a dorm in college, but its more tiny world that nothing else every invades. We go off ship on weekends, but literally its like bubble of people and space that not much invades. Can’t beat the commute to work, but separating life from work took some time for me.
I have two roomates, Jeni and Holly, who are sisters from Ohio. They are lots of fun, energetic and friendly. They are known as ‘the sisters’ becuase they are the only ones on the ship, and plus, and more notably, they look so much alike people think they are twins sometimes. I get along well with them, and am thankful for them and my cabin, which, in the scheme of all cabins, is a decent one, much better than the worst ones. Some people are in bunk rooms with six beds.
Well that’s a good start for me. I’ll keep track of what I want to be sure to tell you all. I could type all night but I do have to work in the morning. I’m on a roll now, so I’ll be back.