Monday, 31 May 2010


No one here gets paid. Everyone is here because they choose to be. Some give up their holiday time from work and fund themselves, others of us are here for a while longer and have some pretty great people supporting us to make it possible to work here with no pay. Either way it might seem a little strange to be talking about pay.

Today saw the first women from this years VVF surgery dance in a dress ceremony. The women came to us constantly leaking urine, over the past week or so they have shared parts of their stories, and then again today as part of the celebrations. Some have 'only' been leaking urine for a year, others have suffered 15 years which must feel like a lifetime or more. They lost the child they were delivering and then were abandoned by their husbands and communities. One shared how even her sister would ask how she was from a distance. They have carried much shame, with people telling them how smelly they were and lived as outcasts. Yet, Praise God, now they are dry, they do not leak urine any more and they danced in celebration. Each of the women was dressed in a new outfit, the necklace they had made, given ear-rings to wear, given underwear to take home and made up to look beautiful. And by beautiful I mean really stunning. They were dancing and singing as we waited in the room next door before the ceremony, unable to contain themselves. They had a beauty coming from the joy within that could not be contained. They were a little more shy during the ceremony with so many eyes on them, but certainly full of gratefulness that they have had this chance to get well. As always it is awesome being there for a dress ceremony, even more so having spent some time with these women. Dr Steve described today as being like payday, it doesn't get better than this.

I love this blog!

Here is a great post with some photos of children who have had their cleft lips repaired written by a lovely friend of ours who works in the operating rooms here (nothing gory in the post so go on have a read):

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Tom is getting ready for his party

I admit I hate the whole idea of kids birthday parties. I am all for cakes and singing, decorations or whatever, but the thought of organising and running a party is terrifying. Hence the fact that Toms first three or four birthdays consisted of family BBQ's and gathering friends in the park with cakes. But with a lack of BBQ's and parks around here apparantly we are having a party again. The not liking parties thing does not help with thinking months in advance when in a country with shops that actually sell partyware, so now I have to come up with some ideas while here. Anyone that knows him well will know he wanted a 'soldier party', the thought 'you have got to be kidding, I can not possibly do one of those in Africa' has fortunately been followed by an agreement with Nanny that we will have a soldier party when we reach the UK. Anyway, we have made a start, well all I actually did was to pick up some free envelope/bag type things from the ship shop and Tom has turned them into party bags. Roll on June 5th at 3pm when it will all be over!!

Saturday, 29 May 2010

what is there to do in the rain?

Answer: Play out in it.

Rainy season is starting and most of the time when it rains it pours. In fact sometimes it is quite spectacular - you look out of the window and you can't actually see anything because the rain is so heavy. It is still plenty warm enough outside, but cools the air slightly that the odd brave person might be seen running on the dock during daylight hours, which would normally be too hot. Today we stayed on board for a rainy day, but the boys did have some fun playing outside on deck 8 this afternoon and then on deck 7 with a glow in the dark frisbee that Sam gave them as it got darker after dinner. It is normally too hot to go outside on deck 8 during the day as there is no shade so it makes a change to go there in daylight! Deck 8 is still a bit of mess and the pool unfinished but there is a track around the outside which they can ride around. Tommy had fun trying to take pictures of jelly fish, but was too high up for any clear shots!

Friday, 28 May 2010

VVF update

So we are still in our first week of surgery, but things are going really well. So far the women are dry, quite content and just starting to get a bit more active. Yesterday we started doing some crafts with them, we started with a craft that had worked well in the past, printing out their names in a pretty font with flowers and butterflies for them to colour in. Some of them took a little persuading as they had not had the opportunity to hold a pen before and kept saying they didn't know how to write, but almost all of them gave it a go in the end and appeared to be enjoying it. Then when they were done we stuck them by their beds to brighten up the ward a little.

Some of the women may be leaving in just a few days, now dry. Before they go we celebrate with them in a ceremony that they can now start a new life without the stigma associated with leaking urine all the time. We went out yesterday to buy some fabric to get the tailor started making a new outfit for each woman that will be a gift for them and we bought beads for them to be able to make a necklace to wear. We got the first three ladies making their necklaces this morning and they look great, the pictures below are examples we made up to show them, we try and avoid taking pictures on the ward as much as possible so you will have to imagine them sitting there with the beads on their nighties stringing them up!

Dress up: Sports Day

I think Mr C our PE teacher really should have tried a little harder. Isn't this what he looks like every day anyway?
Josh and a couple of his friends
Tom and Kindergarten
I have to say we really liked Noah's dress up as a darts player and this one of thumb wrestling- some heavy weights complete with referee and cheerleader!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

for Sam

Here is a lovely pic of Amy, Sams wife to be (crown thanks to the Kindergarten dressing up box - well this is Africa - you make do with what you have) on a girls night out with a few friends before she gets married.

celebration of sight

The hospitality centre holds 'celebrations of sight' attended by people who have had cataract surgery and can now see - that is certainly something to celebrate!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Visiting the French Navy Ship

Last week just after the fire drill on Thursday afternoon we had an interesting tour around the Navy Ship docked next to us. We got to see their guns, lifeboats, torpedos as well as the engine control room and bridge. Oh and were a little jealous to hear that they have a full time French baker who makes French bread and patisserie daily!

Guess what the main gun was pointing at??

Yep - that would be us :-)

painting the ship again

Maintaining the Ship is constant, as soon as they have been all round the outside they start over again, keeping the rust away and keeping the white box looking white. This is great except when outside your cabin - the painting bit is fine, as long as you don't mind people outside your windows all day long waving at your kids and banging a drum type beat on your window while singing loudly - but the needlegunning to remove old paint vibrates though your whole body and renders you unable to hear anything and anyone more than a foot away and is not fun.But they have done ours for another outreach and have now moved on somewhere else!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

things they say

This afternoon I took the boys for eye check ups, and at the end Josh says to me 'My eyes are still there, and I am not blind or anything'. Goodness knows what he was expecting to be the outcome, our eye doctor is pretty nice!

Then at bedtime, he prayed that Nanny wouldn't get killed in battle. I gently suggested she probably wouldn't be in any battles and would he like to pray anything else too so he did, something about her becoming King. I think he was more than a little tired and wasn't going to think of much that made sense today.

a thorn between two roses?

I just found this picture of Tom with the two girls in his class Libby and Megan, on the bow while sailing in January! I thought it was quite sweet!


Having read a few ship blogs recently lots of people have written about a little patient of ours which is a lovely story, I have chosen a couple from friends who are nurses here to share with you about Aissa:

Monday, 24 May 2010

VVF screening today!

We are screening about 70 women today to fill the first four weeks of VVF surgery. Most of them have been referred by Doctors in the North of Togo. Some of these women are after previous failed attempts at having their fistula repaired. Today I have met some of the women who actually don't have a fistula who therefore can not be helped by surgery. I hope that they understood our instruction (through two translators) about pelvic floor exercises and that they will give them a try to see if they will help with stress incontinence problems. Once everyone is screened the VVF team will decide which women we will be able to help and schedule surgery - the first women will have surgery tomorrow! Please be praying for the next 6 weeks of surgery and the women recovering beyond that!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

the dentists have been to prison again!

Kim, one of our fellow teacher friends has been visiting a local prison along with some other crew. Recently the dentists went and did some extreme dentistry there too! Kim has written a little about this and added some photos, you can read it here:

for more from Dag, our Chief Dental Officer with more great pics:

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

"Mummy look at all the diggers..."

This is the current view from our window. We think they might be unloading them from one of the ships: a variation on Ollys number 1 type of ship!!

But this is better than cars, although when they crash into each other going down the ramp that is quite amusing!

Currently the number 2 on his list is docked behind us - a French navy ship, honestly it is thrilling living in a Port, well if you are three like Joshua anyway :-)

crossed eyes no more

This was an article written by the communications department, I think the pictures are great:

Junior, Akoko, and Gloria are three children with some important things in common - they live in Togo, West Africa, and they were born with crossed eyes. Togo is one of the least-developed countries in the world. Healthcare is unaffordable and often unavailable.
These three children faced something even worse than restrictions caused by poor vision. They faced the ridicule of other children in a culture that does not make accommodations for physical disabilities.
Mercy Ships eye surgeon, Dr. Glenn Strauss, performed a 15-minute operation, called a strabismus repair, for each child. The free surgery improved their sight, their appearance, their self-esteem, and their hope for the future!
Now all three children literally have a new perspective on life. Five-year-old Junior can play ball and ride his bicycle. Sweet little Akoko, also five years old, can hardly wait to show her friends her "new eyes." And nine-year-old Gloria can see more clearly to draw and do paper crafts - two of her very favorite things.
Three young lives were dramatically transformed by a simple surgery that is taken for granted in developing countries - a free surgery made possible by dedicated volunteers and compassionate donors.
Junior's father expressed his heartfelt gratitude for the Mercy Ships medical staff, saying, "I don't know how to thank them. God will bless everyone working on the Mercy Ship."

 Akoko before surgery
 Akoko after surgery

Friday, 14 May 2010

the great big enormous turnip

We were invited to the Kindergarten play, so off we went...
We went to see the mouse in action
Grandad Andre was not strong enough to pull up the great, big enormous turnip
He needed help from Grandma, grandaughter Libby, Daniel dog, Megan Cat and Tom mouse!

A great show Kindergarten!! And yes don't worry we videoed it to show Tommy, so anyone that wants a thrilling couple of minutes - or at least to make Tom happy showing it to you in the summer - just let us know!! I have a feeling it won't be an option for Nanny and Grandma, he is very excited to show you!!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

it's International Nurses Day again!!

The nurses have been wearing some slightly unusual hats, Florence Nightingale Style and we get to have pizza for dinner in celebration of International Nurses Day 2010!! Our nurses are working very hard at the moment, it is a busy time in the outreach and some of the patients have been quite poorly of late. Please think of them today!

Josh has been to the British School of Lome for the morning, when asked what he did there the first thing we heard was that he ate two pieces of cake! It was great for the little ones to be able to go there on an outing, they got picked up by the school bus and joined the little kids there for some bouncy castle fun, craft work and spaghetti (and the all important cake!!) lunch. Sounds nice! We have hosted the teachers from the school here and now some of the children from there are coming a few at a time to see the ship and play here with our kids. The bigger kids from here are going there for Sports Day (coming up soon) as they are very blessed with plenty of space that they will share with us :-)

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

behind the clinic in Sierra Leone

 Ann Gloag is described as Scotlands richest businesswoman through owning the company Stagecoach. She has been funding the fistula centre in Freetown and is now also behind the new maternity side to the Aberdeen Womens Centre as well as being a great supporter of the Ship and other work in Africa: