Talla Shares His Story
Talla Gueye ventured into entrepreneurship hoping to find solutions to youth unemployment in his community.
“Taking charge and seeking change to problems motivates me,” he says.
Using his strong personality to take things into his own hands the 29-year-old decided to start a clothing brand that would inspire and empower young people in his country of Senegal. He named it Sigui Doxx, a term in his native Wolof language that translates to “keep your head up.”
His mother inspired the deep care for community that drove him to social entrepreneurship, as he grew up watching her exemplify compassion.
“Whenever she cooked, she put out a huge plate of food for anyone in the neighborhood,” he shared. “She also invited relatives who were struggling to stay with us.”
Now, Talla brings that empathetic approach and entrepreneurial attitude to his work with Mercy Ships, where he started off translating for volunteer medical crew providing free surgical care in Senegal.
Translating More than Language on the Africa Mercy
Talla first heard of the Africa Mercy through a job posting on Facebook where he saw that the floating hospital was coming to Dakar and in need of translators.
“I have always wanted to be involved with work that aligns with my values,” he explained. His university degree in English literature gave him a leg up during the interview, and he was hired as one of the hundreds of national crewmembers.
After a delay because of COVID-19 pandemic, Talla finally arrived on board in 2022 to help bring hope and healing. He said those first few days on the Africa Mercy revealed the magnitude of the surgical need in Senegal.
“I saw people who had traveled from very rural villages to come to have surgery,” he recalled. “I have always lived in towns and getting to a hospital wasn’t too hard for me, but hearing some stories from patients who had lived with tumors for so long because they couldn’t get help made me happy that I chose to work here.”
One of the focuses of Talla’s work was to help translate conversations and cultural practices between patients and volunteers — crucial in a hospital where volunteers meet patients from all over Senegal with different cultural norms and values.
On a typical day, Talla joined doctors on their rounds, played with children when their caregivers needed a break, helped with patients’ bandage changes, and took vital signs. His favorite moments in the hospital were the days when patients were sent home, healed from their surgery.
“You can always see a difference,” he shared. “When they come here, they are so scared, but in the end, they are smiling… that’s my best moment.”
A Different Kind of Serving on the Global Mercy
In 2023, the newest addition to the Mercy Ships fleet, the Global Mercy, arrived in Senegal for her first surgical field service. As the largest civilian hospital ship in the world, she is designed with state-of-the-art surgical equipment and is serving the people of Senegal and The Gambia through the port of Dakar.
Talla was among the national crew who signed up to serve for yet another field service, saying, “I wanted to come back one more time to be part of the work that was happening.”
This time, he chose to step out of the hospital and work in the deck department as a deckhand. In true entrepreneurial spirit, he saw an opportunity to grow and challenge himself on the new ship.
“It is a very different department and I have so many new things to learn…but I am okay with taking risks,” he shared.
The opportunity to work in the deck department is more than a career move for Talla. He says while it is a different role, he still gets the same sense of fulfillment he did working in the hospital.
“I may not be dealing with patients directly but I help keep the ship clean so they can have a comfortable place to stay and recover.”
When he is not working on board, Talla continues to focus on his clothing business, which he hopes to expand. His commitment to helping others and making a positive impact in his community remains a huge part of his motivation.
Want to discover a community like none other, where you can use your skills to bring hope and healing alongside international crewmembers like Talla? Learn how to get involved today.