Mercy Ships

Mercy Ships
The largest NGO hospital ship in the world providing free medical care to the forgotten poor

Sunday, April 17, 2016


When I met him back in October or November, I didn't know his name. I was just starting to venture off the ship and hadn't figure out how to communicate in Malagasy enough to say, "What is your name?"  But I remember that he was one of the very first patients I met at the Hope Center.

At the Hope Center with Mosolo and friends
That Sunday afternoon, when we first met, a gaggle of young boys was running around the Hope Center with nothing to do. Their energy level was off the charts, so I thought some outdoor games would be just the thing to keep them occupied (and give the rest of the patients and staff a little peace!). Without sharing a language, I couldn't explain the rules to any game, but I did manage to set up an obstacle course using a tree, an old chair, a large rock, and some lines drawn in the dirt.  The boys were so excited to show how fast they could complete the course while I timed them.

Masolo on Stairs IMG_7814 cropped 2Monsolo (in the red shirt in the photo above) had severely bowed legs. I was impressed he could walk at all, let alone run through an obstacle course. But he did it with as much gusto as other boys. He wasn't as fast, but the fact that he didn't sit out or shy away from an activity which highlighted his disability is what impressed me the most.

After having surgery in November, Mosolo wore casts until February. Last time I was at the HOPE Center, I was delighted to get to snap a few shots of Mosolo showing off his stair climbing ability with fellow crew member Keith.

Now it is April and Mosolo has finally gotten to return home to his village. Surgery on the Africa Mercy may be free, but our patients still pay a large cost: the cost of being away from home and loved ones for many months, of missing work or school, and many days of difficult travel from remote areas of the country.

But what little I know of Mosolo from my visits to the Hope Center, I have a feeling that the cost was worth it and with his newly straightened legs and his indomitable spirit, he will go far in life.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Day in the Life

I meant to write this blog post back in September, but I was experiencing way too many exciting and unique things to write a blog about a typical day. But after 8 full months on the ship, I've been here long enough to tell you about what an average day is like for me.
Breakfast in the Dining Room

6am - Alarm rings

6:10am - Get up and get ready for the day.

6:30am - Eat breakfast in the dining room which consists of oatmeal daily and depending on the day something else like scrambled eggs or pancakes.  

7am - Arrive in the Academy. My commute is a 2 minute walk from the dining room. Last minute lesson preparations.

7:45am - Teacher's Meeting

8am - School begins. The first 20 minutes are spent with the entire junior high/high school for devotions.

  • Period 1 - Bible (7th/8th grade)
  • Period 2 - Geometry
  • Ship-wide Coffee Break (I love this midmorning break. People from all departments go down to the cafe to get coffee and chat for a few minutes. It helps me not get lost in my work. Sometimes I'm tempted to work through it, but I try really hard not to.)
  • Period 3 - 6th Grade Math
  • Period 4 - Algebra 1
  • Lunch in the Dining Room or back in my classroom so I get work done
  • Period 5 - Pre-Calculus
  • Period 6 - Off Period
  • Period 7 - Off Period

Eating lunch with friends
3:20pm - School day ends
5pm - Teacher work day ends.

In the evenings you might find me reading a book in my cabin, working late in my classroom, up on deck 8 swimming laps in the pool, eating dinner on the dock and watching the exotic fish that swim nearby, going to small group, reading bedtime stories to my favorite kids on the ship, attending the weekly ship-wide community meeting, shopping in the Boutique (the ship's free thrift store), or participating in the ship's Art Journaling group.

I'm not the only one who loves swimming!
(with Hannah, age 4)
On a typical weekend I usually need down time after such a busy week. My favorite way to spend Saturday mornings is sitting by the pool doing logic puzzles while listening to podcasts. They don't serve lunch on the weekends (although you can pack a sandwich at breakfast for yourself) so I often go out for lunch once on the weekend. It's a nice excuse to get off the ship and spend intentional time with friends (and Malagasy food is amazing!). I also get out on a bike ride at least once every weekend. One of my favorite things to do is ride to the beach and go swimming. On Sundays I sometimes attend church at the HOPE Center with our patients or the evening on-ship service for crew.

Jean; Photo Credit: Justine Forrest
Meanwhile, while I'm teaching math, just a few decks below me, miracles are taking place everyday.

Miracles like Jean who received surgery for his bowed legs. And Serah, who will be able to walk because of the treatment she is receiving for her club feet.
Photo Credit Katie Keegan - Serah (MGC07039) before her first Ponseti cast
Serah & her Mother; Photo Credit: Katie Keegan

The healing taking place every day is a reason to celebrate. Watch the video below and celebrate with Hasina. (I'll attempt to actually embed the video below, but if it's not working, you can see it here. Trust me - it's worth the extra click).
Sometimes a dance party is just what the doctor ordered. #MercyShips
Posted by Mercy Ships on Friday, January 29, 2016

Rarely does my daily routine as a math teacher intersect with what's happening in the hospital, but one day it did. It was just before morning break, when my principal came looking for me because one of our orthopedic surgeons had requested to see me. He was preparing for an upcoming surgery and was using trigonometry to calculate some of the angles required in the surgery.  He asked for my help working out the angles and of course I was delighted to oblige. I wonder if I can list Orthopedic Surgery Consultant on my resume now? After all, it's all in a day's work for a teacher on a hospital ship.