As the world continues to fight the battle against COVID-19, people around the globe are coming together to support one another. This Tuesday, May 5, join us and many others as we celebrate and support those whose service changes lives during the first ever #GivingTuesdayNow.

#GivingTuesday has historically been a day of giving following the major holiday shopping days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This year, a special day was added, #GivingTuesdayNow as a new global day of giving and unity in response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19.

Mercy Ships is thankful for all those who have been on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19, including our many volunteers who chose to leave their positions with Mercy Ships in order to fight to save lives in their home countries.

Ruben Plomp, Creative Coordinator with Mercy Ships, rejoined his former hospital’s ICU a few weeks ago. He shares his story of his first night back in ICU and how it compares to the need he has seen working in countries without safe medical care:

World Problems Expose Our Vulnerability: A COVID-19 Response

Last week, I witnessed the essence of this world problem. I’ll try to describe it through what I personally saw.

It was my first shift returning to the hospital since I left the ICU in the summer of 2013. I had already served with Mercy Ships for one year and I had returned home to finish my commitment with my former employer. Although the circumstances of going back to the ICU this time are unusual and not something anyone would have hoped for, it also brought back a sense of sentiment that felt good. For years I had worked as an ICU nurse, determined to help those in need of critical care.

The night I returned, I saw what looked like an ICU on steroids. Something that takes up all our energy to make sure we can deal with the increasing amount of critical care patients. Our healthcare infrastructure, although on the verge of breaking down, was at its finest.

I was prepared for an emotional breakdown based on all the stories I heard, but I’ll be honest. Even though it felt like chaos, it was a chaos that was under control. The hardest part was to see people only a couple years older than me who were being kept alive with ventilators, heart-lung machines, dialysis, and specialized care. But I realized that though it was difficult, what we were working with was state-of-the-art medical care. Even though it is a necessity, after my time serving in countries lacking anything close to this kind of healthcare infrastructure, it felt like luxury.

The problems and challenges some of Mercy Ships partnering nations face are not new. Their healthcare infrastructure has been fragile for years. The vulnerability of individual and community health is clear. TB, Lassa fever, Ebola, Cholera, those are all realities that we usually read about. A pandemic like Covid-19 seems to be another unfortunate virus on the list.

Until it hits home and you realize, how is my friend Tsoa from Madagascar going to protect his family when CoVid-19 becomes a problem in his country? How will Delamou and his family survive another disaster like this in Guinea?

  

Will Boubacar be able to go to a hospital?

Will the patients we’ve seen in the countries we served previously be able to receive the care they might need? And who is going to determine who gets one of the two ventilators available in the hospital?

It’s what we call a devil’s dilemma. It is a dance between logic and emotion, a very painful truth about how resources are not divided equally, a reality-check on our bandwidth to truly care for our neighbors, even if they live 4,000 miles away.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful I get to help in the hospital where people are fighting COVID-19. But, we are no different from our brothers and sisters in sub-Saharan Africa. Because, when our health is attacked and we are exposed to illness or even death, our fear, vulnerability, grief, and longing for hope is universal. World Problems are our problems. They don’t belong to one person.  And it’s up to all of us to solve them. Whether you are at home, on the ship, in Africa, or somewhere in between.

Several STAY AT HOME orders have been lifted in many countries, but that doesn’t mean that the battle is over. While we are not all able to serve in a hospital setting, we can all do our part during this time of unity and generosity on #GivingTuesdayNow. Below are some ways you can give back to your community, and join the fight against COVID-19.

Find and donate to your local food bank and shelters. The last several weeks has left many families without income to provide for their basic needs. Many community food banks are over burdened by this unexpected outcome. One way to help is by contacting your LOCAL food bank to see what items they are most in need of. Common Food Bank requests include: peanut butter, canned soup, canned fruit, canned vegetables, canned stew, canned fish, canned beans, pasta, and rice. And remember, only donate food that hasn’t been opened or reached its “sell-by” date yet.

Reach out to the high-risk people in your neighborhood. While many stores are opening their doors again, several people who are considered high-risk may not feel comfortable joining the rest of shoppers right away. Leave a note or call someone in your neighborhood to see if they are in need of anything.

Continue to follow CDC guidelines. While many people may be returning to work, we know that the battle has not been won yet. Be sure to continue practicing good hand-washing and social distancing where needed.  Updated CDC guidelines can be found on their website.

Thank you for doing your part to help in the battle against COVID-19. Together, we care; together, we heal; together give; together we are Mercy Ships!