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Madagascar: volunteering on the Africa Mercy

A seafarer from South Shields is celebrating World Maritime Day today by volunteering aboard The Africa Mercy - the world's largest civilian floating hospital ...

Simon Purvis, a 26-year-old seafarer from South Shields, is celebrating World Maritime Day today by volunteering onboard the world’s largest civilian floating hospital docked in Madagascar.
 
The Africa Mercy is the world’s largest charity hospital ship and is run by international charity, Mercy Ships, to provide free surgeries and humanitarian care to some of the poorest people in the world.
 
Simon began volunteering with Mercy Ships in 2014 whilst the ship was docked in the Republic of Congo and returned early this year when the ship was in Madagascar. This summer, Simon successfully helped to navigate the ship from Durban to Madagascar where the floating hospital has docked for its second field service. He will remain onboard until the end of November.
 
As the Second Officer on the Africa Mercy, Simon is in charge of safety and training. This involves keeping a navigation watch on the bridge when the vessel is at sea, taking charge of line handling operations when entering and leaving port, planning and organising various drills and training exercises for emergency teams, making regular safety rounds of the vessel and chairing the onboard safety committee, among other duties.
 
Reflecting on his time on the floating hospital, Simon said: “The most rewarding aspect of my role is training our African crew members, particularly our Deck Hands and Deck Ratings who are working towards becoming professional seafarers at the rank of Deck Able Seafarer.
 
“We are very passionate about training and African development here at Mercy Ships, and I feel extremely privileged to play a part in the progress of other seafarer’s careers, particularly those who may not have had the opportunities that I had growing up.
 
“I became a seafarer to see the world, but I could never have imagined that my career could open me up to experiences like volunteering with Mercy Ships. I feel a great sense of purpose in serving as part of an organisation where we prioritise loving our neighbour, helping and caring for others.”
 
Judy Polkinhorn, Executive Director of Mercy Ships UK, said: “While the deck and engineering team does not work directly with the patients who receive free medical treatment on the hospital ship, they are vital to the running of the ship and without them the ship would not function. We are extremely grateful to all the volunteers that give up their time and offer support for Mercy Ships.”
 
The Africa Mercy was converted from a Danish rail ferry into a state-of-the-art hospital ship. It is staffed by up to 400 volunteers from 40 different nations – including surgeons and nurses, cooks and engineers – who pay for the privilege to work and provide free medical service to Madagascar’s population of 22 million, in addition to carrying out mentoring and training programmes in the local villages.
 
Simon is currently raising money for Mercy Ships through a JustGiving fundraising page

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