Nurse Christelle served in her home country with Mercy Ships
Christelle first joined Mercy Ships in 2017 when she volunteered as a local day worker in her home country of Cameroon. With her nursing background, Christelle came on board as a translator in the hospital.
Because Christelle is Cameroonian — like the patients she was translating for — they felt safe with her. She shared their culture, and because of this, she could better explain the needs of the patients to the surgeons and nurses.
“I was an advocate for them at that time,” Christelle said. “I was the middle person that understood what they were going through because I’m part of that culture, and I know how things work. It was a blessing.”
That is one reason why our local day workers are essential to the mission of Mercy Ships. They not only translate language between patients and the medical teams, but they also translate culture.
With a desire to grow her nursing skills, Christelle welcomed all the opportunities she was given in the hospital. Her time serving as a translator allowed her to see the work that Mercy Ships does.
“I get to see a lot of lives changed in this job,” Christelle reflected. “Some people arrive at the ship with so much hopelessness and sadness, yet they are so happy when they leave. This touches me so much – it’s what keeps me going.”
While serving on board, Christelle kept asking herself, “where were you?” She had not seen patients like this in the hospital where she previously worked in Cameroon. Through her time on board, Christelle learned that many patients in her own country didn’t have access to health care or that it was not affordable for them. Impacted greatly by this, she decided to join the Africa Mercy crew as a screening nurse and continued her service after the ship left Cameroon.
The patients that receive surgery on the ship come from all parts of the host nation, and in some cases, they travel across borders from neighboring countries. Travel expenses are great and already struggling people can be hindered by this expense. To aid in this, Mercy Ships sends screening teams comprised of nurses and translators to go out all over the country to meet with potential patients.
“This is the exciting part of my job, that I go and travel to my patients,” Christelle shared. “The ship is trying to make it easy for our patients where we travel to them.”
Christelle volunteered on the screening team for three field services. While in Senegal, Christelle and the team traveled all over the country and were gone for weeks at a time, meeting with potential patients. When the ship had to leave in 2020 due to COVID-19, some patients she screened were not able to receive their surgery.
Now that the Africa Mercy has returned to Senegal, Christelle is thrilled that many patients she saw during her time volunteering will now be receiving the surgery they were promised.
If you have a heart for people who lack easy access to health care and you love to travel, come join us! Check out volunteer opportunities at mercyships.org/volunteer