Mercy ship upbringing steers career courses
Travelling to Third World countries on a floating hospital has steered the future careers of three siblings.
The Walls children, Jason, Chelsea and Daniel, spent several years as youngsters on Mercy Ships travelling around Africa.
On the trips they witnessed people treated for medical conditions rarely seen in New Zealand.
‘‘I remember one person in Liberia who had been blind her whole life. After a 20-minute cataract surgery she could see for the very first time,’’ 18-year-old Chelsea recalls.
‘‘The look on her face when she saw her mother for the first time is something I will never forget. There was so much joy.’’
Mercy Ships is an international charity that was launched in 1978 by Don and Devon Stephens.
There is one vessel in service, the Africa Mercy, which focuses its efforts in West Africa.
Its services include free health care, community health education and mental health programmes for some of the world’s poorest citizens.
The ship is manned by an international crew numbering close to 500 people.
The Walls family became involved with Mercy Ships back in 1983 when a flagship came to New Zealand, says mother Sharon.
‘‘My husband and I didn’t know each other then, we got involved as young single people and both of us were just really inspired by their work. I was 19 and I really wanted to invest my life in something that was bigger than me.’’
When the couple had children there was no question that they too would be involved.
‘‘Raising a family on the ships and working in developing nations and interfacing with all that was part of the package,’’ Mrs Walls says.
Helping people who were afflicted with conditions that are uncommon in the Western world had a positive affect on the Walls children.
‘‘Other people just see scars and their tumours, but we were taught to look at the person inside and not look at the tumours,’’ Jason, 20, says.
‘‘And that really impacted on a lot of the people we talked to because it was the first time in their lives they had been treated like an actual person.’’
Jason, the eldest of the Walls sibling, studies communications and volunteers his time at several charitable organisations, while his sister is studying to be a nurse with the goal of heading back to Africa.
Meanwhile the youngest, 16-year-old Daniel, is still finding his feet on the career path, however his time on Mercy Ships still resonates with him.
‘‘You see it in the ads, you see these kids living in slums with dirt floors and latrines running through the middle of the slums,’’ he says.
‘‘I think seeing it in person has a lot more impact than seeing it on TV,’’ Daniel says.
Mercy Ships volunteers have performed more than 61,000 free operations, such as cleft lip and palate, cataract removal, straightening of crossed eyes, and orthopaedic and facial reconstruction.
Bright future: Siblings Chelsea, Jason and Daniel Walls have shaped their future towards humanitarian causes after living on Mercy Ships.
Go to aucklandcityharbour news.co.nz and click on Latest Edition to see a video about Mercy Ships.