As this strenuous year comes to a close we want to take a moment to look back and count our blessings. In a year that seemed filled with strife, good has still triumphed in many ways. While the world fought for health this year, many people were able to find healing in places where medical care is scarce.

For patients like Zackaria, 2020 was not a year of fear, but rather one filled with hope thanks to the surgery that changed his life.

After young Zackaria was born, his mother, Binta, began seeing signs that he was suffering from cataracts. As he grew up, he was aware that he could not see like other children and while his spirit remained strong, the cataracts blocking his sight slowed him down.

Once they heard about the Africa Mercy’s arrival in Senegal, Binta immediately took him to find healing. After he was admitted, Zackaria was given surgery to remove the cataracts, and only a few weeks later he was back for a final checkup and to join the “Celebration of Sight” ceremony with his new glasses.

“Now Zackaria can see better, he hardly stays still and is constantly moving about,” Binta said. “I am so happy. I never thought that Zackaria would have this opportunity for surgery. Even I was suffering from something that Mercy Ships has healed! 

Though our surgical programs were shut down once the spread of COVID-19 began to take the world by toll, our presence in Africa never wavered. From donations of PPE equipment to our partnering countries across the continent, to supplies, donations, and volunteers making their way from around the world to ensure the Gamal Abdel Nasser University dental clinic in Guinea could continue its vital work, hope and healing abound.

“This year COVID-19 brought monumental changes to the world,” said volunteer Dr. Sarah Kwok, Mercy Ships Anesthesia Supervisor. “We experienced the fragility of life…In the midst of all of this we stay connected.”

One way that we have continued to stay connected with those we serve in Africa is through the eLearning program that was launched this year. Thanks to the advancement of technology and the continued passion of some of our volunteers, several eLearning classes were able to take place across the globe including a mental health course which launched in the summer of 2020.

“Access to those working at the front line has never been more important as healthcare, mental health providers and pastoral caregivers struggle to deal with the pandemic,” Dr. Glenn Strauss, Director of Medical Capacity Building said. “eLearning tools have given us a new way to make sure our colleagues are connected with the critical information and training resources they need.”

With 2021 on the horizon, we are filled with hope for all that lies ahead. We believe that the new year holds a transformative new promise — one of hope. A hope to celebrate changed lives. A hope to gather and share life together once more. A hope to hold friends and family close. A hope to travel and explore the world with reopened eyes. A hope to continue reaching, teaching, and providing more hope and healing to those who need it most.

As we end this year, we are especially excited for the return of the Africa Mercy to Africa in 2021. While COVID-19 forced our ship out of service early in 2020, over the last several months, we have been eagerly planning for her return voyage. Soon we will return to the beautiful country of Senegal to continue our life-changing mission for those in need.

“We love and serve one another and continue to hope and dream that one day every person will have access to safe and affordable surgery. We were there before COVID-19 and we will be there after, stronger than ever!” – Dr. Sarah Kwok, volunteer