Sophie

My connection with Mercy Ships dates from 2011. I started as a receptionist aboard the Africa Mercy for a period of three months. Such a life-changing experience that I’ve never left the organization! After various roles on the ship, plus a stint of more than 3 years at the Mercy Ships office in Lausanne, I am now an Africa Mercy volunteer once again. This time my role is as Advance Director. With the “Advance team”, we manage preparatory processes for our field service 2018 -2019 in Conakry, Guinea, where I have been since April 2018.

What is your job?

With the support of a team of about ten people, I have to make sure that all the points of the General Protocol Agreement, which was signed in March 2017 by the Guinean government and Mercy Ships, are put in place before the arrival of the ship. For example, we have to regulate all the details for the stay in the harbor, organize the future selections of our patients, renovate two buildings in the city – one of which will be used by the dental team and the other as our “HOPE Center”, an extension of the hospital to house certain patients – and hire more than 220 Guineans who will assist us throughout the mission in different areas, such as translation, but also for practical or technical tasks on board. Suffice it to say that our days are extremely hectic and provide their share of surprises and challenges!

In this protocol, what are the government’s commitments?

You should know that an Africa Mercy field service always requires that the government issues a formal invitation beforehand. It is important for us to have the support of the authorities at the highest levels, as their commitment as described in the protocol is far from minor. For example, we ask them for exemptions from the charge for port fees for the duration of the mission, from customs duties for all equipment and drugs that will arrive mainly by sea containers, and from visa fees for around 1’000 volunteers who will join the ship by plane, etc. In this way, their efforts contribute to reducing our costs, which is very valuable.

How will you select the patients?

For several weeks, we have been informing the public via flyers and radio announcements that a patient selection process will be held in the capital on 20th August, shortly after the arrival of the ship. This is an event that is likely to attract thousands of people because we announce that everything is free, from consultation to post-operative care and, of course, the operation itself! This will be followed by four other selection days held further inland, in order to allow people living far from Conakry to have access to our care as well. For cataract and dental procedures, we will have weekly selections throughout the field service.

What is your motivation for volunteering?

My faith motivates me to do what I do. Preparing the ground for a hospital ship that will transform thousands of lives and restore hope to so many people is a truly worthwhile goal that really excites me!