Mercy Ships consistently seeks to not only provide direct medical and surgical care to the countries it serves, but also to leave each of its host nations better equipped with a stronger healthcare system to allow each community to continue caring for its residents once the ship leaves port.
It is through the selflessness of Mercy Ships volunteers that the non-profit is able to provide African nations with access to top tier medical professionals who can build up the local healthcare infrastructure by providing training, tools and skills to local African communities – leaving a legacy that extends for generations.
With this mission in mind, Mercy Ships volunteers use their unique skillsets to help train local healthcare professionals, as well as share state-of-the-art equipment for current and future use. The organization also provides additional access to crucial resources that these communities would not have otherwise.
One such volunteer is U.S.-based anesthesiologist, Dr. John Drago, who was inspired to join Mercy Ships in the fight for better healthcare after witnessing the life changing work the organization was already doing in Africa.
“Several years ago, I saw a documentary on 60 Minutes with Dr. Gary Parker on Mercy Ships and the work they were doing in West Africa. I had previously volunteered at other institutions and other organizations, but on a much smaller and less permanent scale,” recalls Dr. Drago. “I thought it would be an entirely different and great experience to participate in Mercy Ships, which was operating on a much larger scale – allowing them to make a real lasting impact where they were stationed.”
Dr. Drago’s volunteer experience allowed him to witness firsthand how different the African healthcare system was from that in the U.S. – specifically as it relates to patient ailments due to lack of adequate healthcare.
“The patients that I saw had problems I don’t typically see in the United States. Many of the patients had rickets, which is caused by vitamin D deficiency, and that’s something I had never seen before,” shared Dr. Drago. “I’ve really gained an appreciation for everything we have in the States after my experience with Mercy Ships. There’s a whole different level of appreciation when people from a foreign country come to them to try and help them out in some way and provide a service that would otherwise not be available to them. It’s just a very humbling experience.”
Becoming a volunteer with Mercy Ships allows people from all over the world to come together to give back to a nation that needs their time, skills, and servant hearts. Not only does a volunteer’s experience change their own world view, but it helps Mercy Ships continue their vision of leaving a lasting impact on nations by building out their healthcare systems to be stronger than ever.
“The ability to help people who are in need and who don’t have the means to be able to take care of basic medical requirements is extremely rewarding,” states Dr. Drago. “People in high-income healthcare systems take for granted the great medical care that we have and all of the advanced technology we have access to. Whereas in many other places, like Africa, it’s considered a luxury, and some people don’t ever get the opportunity to experience that. It’s an honor to be able to share that with these people – especially in foreign countries – to shed some goodwill on behalf of Mercy Ships.”
If you’d like to learn more about volunteering with Mercy Ships or supporting the organization’s healthcare capacity efforts in the future, visit here for more information.