Shipmates work to make a difference
Despite coming from the same Waikato town, Glenys Gillingham and Janine Boyes had not met until they started changing lives in Africa.
The pair are volunteering aboard a floating hospital docked in Freetown, Sierra Leone, providing the poor with free medical treatment.
The pair had never met before, although they both hail from Matamata and arrived in Sierra Leone in February – they are now close friends and have adjacent cabins on the ship.
Miss Gillingham joined the Mercy Ships organisation in 2006 as an operating room nurse and has since carried out a number of missions to a number of countries, including Ghana, Liberia and Togo.
She believes she is well suited to living and working among the poor.
‘‘I had been working for about 25 years in missions in Zambia and Congo and went home. After about five years I decided I’d be better off in a Third World country than in a cushy job.’’
She said she quickly grew tired of life back in New Zealand and wanted to help people on a bigger scale.
Ms Boyes joined Mercy Ships at the end of 2009 and works in human resources, managing the arrival of all new volunteers.
She has had previous careers in banking and health and fitness.
‘‘ I’d already done some mission work in Thailand and knew that’s what I was meant to be doing.
‘‘It’s been great. It’s certainly different to working at home.’’
Africa Mercy spends 10 months in a different West African country every year, with volunteers delivering the healthcare services that are usually unavailable there.
The ship provides care for 70 patients at a time in general and intensive care wards and in six operating theatres.
The majority of work involved surgical procedures for problems such as head tumours, cleft lip and palate and hernias, Miss Gillingham said.
A field team screens patients on land to find out their needs and then arranges appointments for them on the ship.
In the time the ship is docked about 10,000 people also receive dental treatment.
Miss Gillingham is sponsored by Matamata Bible Church and Ms Boyes by Matamata Baptist Church and they are both supported/sponsored by many friends and family in the Matamata community. These people are also a vital part of the team making the work on the Africa Mercy possible.