We all know what shame is and how pain feels. But compassion and mercy connect us as people.

Tomorrow the world observes #InternationalDayofCharity, a day where we shift our focus onto the many people, organizations, and programs around the world created to bring hope to those who need it most. Mercy Ships is excited to be represented during this day as a charity dedicated to bringing hope and healing to the forgotten poor.

Our mission began over 40 years ago when our founder decided to make a dream into a reality — a unique vision of using hospital ships to bring healing to those who need it most. Globally, 5 billion people lack access to safe surgery. Children, teens, and adults suffer and die every day from treatable causes.

For over 40 years, with our generous partners and dedicated volunteers’ support, we have been able to deploy hospital ships to combat this overwhelming statistic. In that time, over 2.84 million people have benefited from the services offered throughout our history. So many lives touched, tumors removed, twisted limbs corrected, healthcare professionals trained, and more!

While we are proud of all that has been accomplished over our history, we know that NONE of it would be possible without those who have come alongside us, and those who continue to support our mission — our partners and volunteers who gave of their time, money, and prayers.

Our partners are the difference between a life filled with pain and one filled with hope for so many patients — those like Gnilane.

Gnilane first noticed the small lump on her face when she was 15 years old. At first, she didn’t think anything of it and figured it would go away. However, the tumor soon became so large and painful that it began to affect her ability to concentrate. As a result, Gnilane was forced to give up the studies that she loved so much.

“That decision was so difficult,” she said. “I didn’t want to abandon my studies, but I felt I had no choice.”

The passion she had for her education and her future, once so alive, now felt like a faraway dream. Because of a lack of safe, affordable medical care in her country, she worried that she would never be able to find the healing that she so desperately needed.

“I told myself that maybe God just hadn’t scheduled my healing yet,” she said. “I still felt upset, but continued to thank God because I knew one day He would heal me.”

It was only a short while later that she received news from a friend that the Africa Mercy would be arriving in Dakar. After investigating Mercy Ships and seeing evidence of the healing that takes place onboard, Gnilane registered to be screened. When she was approved for surgery, the young woman traveled to the ship.

While on the Africa Mercy, Gnilane began planning her future, saying, “I am looking forward to returning to school and restarting my studies — it’s the only thing I want.”

After 10 years of pain, living with the large tumor, Gnilane finally received the opportunity to have it removed for good! With the tumor and constant pain finally gone, her passion for her future is back, and now she plans to return to school to pursue her new dream.

“This surgery is really changing my life,” she said. “I have a lot of dreams, including the one of being a doctor, thanks to Mercy Ships!”

Our history has thousands of stories like Gnilane’s to share, and our future promises for even more healing. We know that there is still much to do and are looking forward with excitement to what will be possible in the future.

There is so much hope to give, and so many ways to give it. From making a single donation to becoming a monthly donor — or simply offering your prayers for our volunteers and the patients they serve — your support has a great impact on bringing charity and hope to those in need.

Get involved this #InternationalDayofCharity at www.mercyships.org/get-involved/.