Free surgeries would be impossible without the volunteer nurses onboard the Africa Mercy, the world’s largest civilian hospital ship.

Toamasina, Madagascar, May 4, 2015:  During National Nurses Week, Mercy Ships commends thousands of nurses who have volunteered on their hospital ships since 1978. Nurses have helped Mercy Ships provide more than 78,000 free surgeries, helped teach over 183,000 people basic healthcare, mentored African nurses and provided expert pre-operative and post-operative care to patients in the wards. Nurses continually give of their time and expertise to fulfill a critical role onboard the world’s largest civilian hospital ship.

“I see a lot of patients with problems that would never occur in the Western world,” stated volunteer Nurse Anna Iraggi, who has spent the last six months volunteering onboard the Mercy Ship in Madagascar. “I’ve learned to focus on their eyes instead of their deformity. Their eyes show a lack of hope. Their eyes communicate sadness and despair. Then they have surgery, and the tumor is suddenly gone, or the cleft is now closed … over the next few days, the hope and joy grow … their eyes slowly start to smile, and then their whole face smiles!”

Iraggi worked as a cardiac intensive care nurse at the University of North Carolina Hospital before joining Mercy Ships. Now she helps care for patients onboard who have head, neck and facial tumors, disfigurements, cleft lips, and cleft palates.

One of her patients, a young woman named Mona, was abandoned as a child because she was born with a cleft lip. “Her earliest memories are those of rejection, despair, and anything but love,” shared Iraggi.  A woman took Mona in as a child and cared for her as her own daughter. When she brought Mona, now a young lady, to Mercy Ships, the two women were given hope that Mona’s cleft could be fully repaired. She was given a free operation onboard the Mercy Ship.

“During her recovery period, I saw a shy, withdrawn girl transform into a bright, bubbly, excited young woman who was ready to begin her new future!” Iraggi continued, “Through being here, my eyes have been opened to the fact that we cannot change the whole world, but we can change the world for one person. Each transformation has meaning and purpose. “

Iraggi is just one of the countless excellent nurses that have made the work of Mercy Ships possible and have helped bring hope and healing to more than 2.5 million direct beneficiaries.




ABOUT MERCY SHIPS:  Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class healthcare services, capacity building and sustainable development to those without access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1 billion, treating more than 2.5 million direct beneficiaries. Each year Mercy Ships has more than 1,600 volunteers from more than 40 nations. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time. Learn more about who we are.


For More Information:

Contact: Laura Rebouche ́
U.S. National Media Relations Director Mercy Ships
Office:+1 903.939.7000
Direct:+1 903.939.7127

For Int’l: Diane Rickard
International Media Relations Manager Mercy Ships

Hi-res photos and general Mercy Ships B-Roll video footage are available upon request.