Janine oils wheels of African mercy mission
Matamata woman Janine Boyes has been using her administration skills to bring change to some of Africa’s poorest people since 2010. She volun- teers as a human resources facilitator on the Africa Mercy, a charity hospital ship operated in West Africa by Mercy Ships.
On February 1 Togo’s poor from far and wide came, bringing their friends and family suffering from medical conditions untreatable in most African countries. The local stadium had been set up as a huge temporary clinic.
A total of 3500 people with problems ranging from cataracts, club feet and tumours to ailments such as stomachaches and headaches lined up to be screened.
The Mercy Ship’s doctors selected 1600 of the worst cases that the ship’s surgeons could operate on.
Ms Boyes said screening day was her highlight of each year’s field service.
‘‘ The day started with breakfast on the ship at 3.30am. All crew not on watch duty grabbed water, sunscreen, mozzie repellent – we’re in malaria country – supplies for the day. We headed off in several convoys in the ship’s Land Rovers to the venue,’’ she said.
‘‘ Within minutes of arrival and setup the first of many, many hundreds of people arrived at the registration tables, having had examinations at two pre-screening posts along the way.
‘‘ Every potential patient had to be properly registered before they could move on through the rest of the medical history-taking and examination process – each hoping they would receive an appointment card for further screening on board, and desperate for the possibility of life- changing treatment.
‘‘Because my French is very limited I had a local man named Yaovi translating for me. I did most of the form-filling and he did most of the talking. It was a very long day.’’
Ms Boyes said some of her experiences were unforgettable.
‘‘One woman looked both very young and very old at the same time but was only in her twenties,’’ Ms Boyes said.
‘‘ It looked like she had endured a lifetime of hurt in just a few short years and was very lonely and alone.
‘‘She was a candidate for a birth injury repair surgery.
‘‘Many women in this part of the world endure very prolonged childbirth sometimes resulting in the loss of their baby, incontinence, and then being ostracised by their husband, family and village for the previous two events.’’
Staff on board the Africa Mercy often see people with cleft lip or cleft palate.
Without resources to treat the condition soon after birth, people live their whole lives putting up with the abuse and torment that goes along with the facial abnormality.
‘‘ I remember one baby in particular. She was about eight months old and a tiny wee thing with huge brown eyes and a cleft lip,’’ Ms Boyes said.
‘‘She was sitting in her mother’s lap while her father stood and gave us her information for registration.
‘‘ She spent most of her time looking devotedly up at her daddy and hanging on his every word.
‘‘ We had to collect from him his baby girl’s name – they called their precious baby girl with the cleft lip, Beauty!’’
Forever changed by her experiences serving Africa’s poor, Ms Boyes said it was hard to put into words what she saw but she was privileged to be a part of it.
Servant heart: Janine Boyes and translator Yaovi work together to gather the patient’s information at the screening registration desk.