Transformative Time Concluded in Sierra Leone
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Hope Ignited, Impact Multiplied

After spending the past 10 months partnering with the nation of Sierra Leone, the Global Mercy has ended its field service in Freetown — for now. The impact of this first field service was significant, leading to many lives transformed and healthy futures restored, but it became clear that the journey was not yet complete.

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Sierra Leone’s President H.E. Julius Maada Bio invited the Global Mercy to extend its stay and remain docked in Freetown for a further field service, and Mercy Ships was honored to accept. Following a short annual maintenance period, the Global Mercy plans to sail back to familiar shores and resume its operations in Freetown starting in August 2024. 

During the 2023-24 field service in Sierra Leone, which officially ended on June 18, 2024 with the departure of the Global Mercy, Mercy Ships celebrates a season of hope fulfilled for patients and their families.

It all began with the very first patient to come on board, Emmanuel, who received surgery to remove a facial tumor that for years had made it difficult to work and filled him with fear for the future. For Emmanuel, who had recently celebrated his 43rd birthday, this free surgery on board felt like a “double portion of blessings.” 

Emmanuel’s journey was followed by many others, as 1,728 patients received surgery on the Global Mercy during this season in Sierra Leone. The 3,177 surgical procedures that took place covered a range of specialties such as maxillofacial, general, pediatric orthopedics, reconstructive plastics, and ophthalmic procedures.  

This field service marks the organization’s sixth visit to Sierra Leone over the course of 30 years, during which Mercy Ships has built incredible partnerships with the nation and its leaders. In the words of Dr. Sandra Lako, Mercy Ships Sierra Leone Country Director: “This long-lasting partnership paves the way for Mercy Ships to continue to engage closely with the government of Sierra Leone and to strengthen our joint commitment to improving access to safe surgical care. A collaborative approach is much stronger.”

One of the organization’s key partners in the nation’s Ministry of Health, Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Clinical Services Dr. Mustapha Kabba, played an instrumental role in establishing these relationships: “Sierra Leone is at a critical point in its healthcare journey. The formidable challenges we face are matched only by our resolute determination to overcome them. The docking of the Global Mercy will mark a transformative milestone on this journey, a before and an after, but our voyage will continue from there.” 

Thanks to these partnerships and our focus on working toward lasting change through an Education, Training, and Advocacy programmatic focus, Mercy Ships saw incredible training opportunities in Sierra Leone. A total of 174 healthcare professionals came on board the ship for a variety of training opportunities, including surgical residencies, OR/Ward Nurse mentoring, and Physiotherapist mentoring. Meanwhile, new partnerships planted the seeds for stronger healthcare systems long into the future.

Through an agreement with the University of Sierra Leone, Mercy Ships is now sponsoring five dental students to earn their degrees at a partnering dental school in neighboring Guinea, with the promise that they will later return to bolster Sierra Leone’s limited dentist workforce. Another program, launched in partnership with the University of Sierra Leone and the Ministry of Health, is seeing a group of 20 students begin their education at a newly established Nurse Anesthesia Diploma program. 

It takes a one-of-a-kind crew to bring about impact like this. This field service, the Global Mercy housed 1078 volunteers from 60 nations and 323 national crewmembers working in all different areas across the ship, from the galley and dining room to the hospital wards and HOPE Center. Behind the scenes, many corporate partners and national partners were involved in making our life-changing work on board possible. 

Through these combined efforts, Mercy Ships volunteer medical crew were able to fulfil their mission of seeing lives transformed and healthcare systems strengthened. As has been evident through the 30 years of partnership with Sierra Leone, it’s impossible to quantify how these encounters will ripple over time and impact many more lives to come. 

During the 2023-24 field service, patients like Lucy experienced the life-changing impact of surgery firsthand.

As a bright 14-year-old girl who loved to study science and dreamed of being a doctor, Lucy and her family were devastated when a facial tumor threatened not only her future aspirations, but her life. The growing tumor kept her from attending school and, if left untreated, would likely have eventually blocked her airways and ended Lucy’s life early. While the family couldn’t access or afford the surgery they needed in their home country, an operation on board the Global Mercy completely changed the trajectory of Lucy’s life. After healing, Lucy found a new level of confidence and is now back in school with her peers, where she’s dreaming of her future career again. 

With the extended stay planned for the Global Mercy, many more patients like Lucy will be able to begin anew with their health restored. Want to be a part of making a greater impact as we bring hope and healing together in Sierra Leone?

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There’s no shortage of opportunities to share your skills and time as part of our international crew, whether you’re a medical professional, a mariner, an engineer, a plumber, a teacher, or virtually any other profession. Find your place on board today!