Just a 15-minute walk from where the Africa Mercy is currently docked — in the port of Conakry, Guinea — sits a beehive of activity and energy. Here, Mercy Ships patients can be found playing games, laughing, sharing meals, and living life in community.

The Hospital Out-Patient Extension Center, or the HOPE Center, is the epicenter of healing and growth for patients after they receive surgery on the hospital ship. Here, patients and their caregivers are given clean beds, warm meals, attentive care — and most importantly — hope. Mercy Ships believes that hope is an essential part of the healing process for every patient.

Dr. Gary Parker, who has served for over 30 years as a volunteer surgeon with Mercy Ships, said hope is the one thing many patients lack when they arrive.

“For hope to be credible in the future, it must be tangible in the present,” Dr. Parker said.

And the HOPE Center provides a space where patients can experience this powerful healing component as they recover after surgery. For the Manager of the HOPE Center, Martha Rodriguez, it is more than a hopeful place — it is joyful!

“I think overall it’s a great experience. By the time [patients] get to the HOPE Center, they’ve recovered enough to […] get around on their own,” Martha said. For me, it’s a really joyous place.”

Martha and her team make it a priority to invest love, patience, and acceptance into the lives of the patients staying at the HOPE Center.

“When these people come, we look them in the eye and we treat them for the person they are inside, and not for the condition they have,” Martha said. “We love and treat everybody the same.”

While the ship is where the surgeries take place, the HOPE Center is where patients experience more of the kindness and compassion that characterize how Mercy Ships loves people. And hope plays an invaluable role in helping these people heal both physically and emotionally.