Kiwi life put into perspective
Volunteering on the world’s largest civilian hospital ship was a great adventure for married couple Aaron and Tracy Huang but it also helped them gain a little perspective on their own lives.
Mercy Ships operates the 16,000 tonne hospital ship Africa Mercy. It is crewed by 450 volunteer personnel and has six operating theatres and three wards.
The international charity provides free surgical and health care services to the poorest people in a different West African nation each year. The ship was stationed in Conakry, the capital of Guinea in West Africa.
The experience of being in the third world country made the One Tree Hill couple appreciative of life in New Zealand. They say they don’t tend to fret over the little things now.
The Huangs worked on the ship for seven weeks from April 6 to May 25 and went on to travel in Europe before returning to Auckland earlier this month.
Mrs Huang is a nurse so she was able to put her skills to good use on the wards.
One patient in particular made an impression. Hasanatu, or Mama H as she was affectionately known, was an elderly woman who was waiting to have a tumour the size of a football removed from the side of her face.
‘‘She was really cheeky. She had a bit of a fiery personality but she just made me laugh. You wouldn’t see a tumour that size here.
‘‘The cost of healthcare in Guinea is unaffordable for many people there so they tend to just leave things,’’ she says.
was thrown into an unfamiliar working environment. His skills as a chiropractor were not required on the ship so he worked as a steward. His main duties included food preparation and doing dishes.
‘‘It did get a little bit mundane but the thing is that the local people you meet and the stories you hear while working make it worthwhile.’’
They both enjoyed going on organised excursions to orphanages and the paediatric hospital where they would read stories to the children or do craft activities with them.
‘‘You would just step in the gate and lots of the kids were so excited, it was a real highlight of their week,’’ Mrs Huang says.