Setting Sail

Sarah McGowran is sailing to new adventures as she prepares to volunteer for the charity Mercy Ships for three months. Here, she explains why.

I have been coming to Christ Church London since 2010 when I did Alpha for the first time. I was just 18.

From accepting Christ as my Father all those years ago, let’s fast forward 11 years. I’ve now decided to take a position as a physiotherapist with the global charity Mercy Ships. God has given me the ability to step outside of my comfort zone and I’ve found that I’m not feeling scared about heading into a potentially dangerous situation, the financial compromise involved or the idea of giving up my time. As of 26th August, I’ll be leaving my job in London and will be living onboard the world’s largest non-governmental ‘hospital on a ship’, the Africa Mercy, for 3 months. I will not be paid during this time and everyone on board the ship will be self-funding their stay. I am so grateful for the many family and friends around me who have donated, as well as for the amazing support Christ Church London has provided.

Mercy Ships is a faith-based organisation that has been running since 1978. The Africa Mercy provides various treatments and surgeries including cleft lip and palate, removal of often very large benign tumours, Ponseti treatment for club feet, burns, removal of fistulas post child birth, and eye and dental surgery. This year the ship will be in port in Conakry, Guinea, West Africa. It has 450 staff members and is expecting to complete 2500 surgeries over its full year of service.

I am truly excited about this opportunity. I had always hoped I would be able to work using health care to make a difference in countries where people don’t have access to it. I studied Physiotherapy so that I could have hands-on contact with patients, and hoped to build relationships that would empower and encourage patients and families through their rehabilitation journey back to health. I now believe teaching people about health care techniques is just as important as the treatment itself, so I will be providing post-surgical rehabilitation as well as teaching on areas of paediatric Physiotherapy which is my specialism.

I have been considering working with the Mercy Ships since 2010. During that time I have worked for the NHS, with a charity in Peru and in a government hospital in Singapore, but I’ve always had the desire to assist with health care provision on board the Mercy Ships. I see Physiotherapy as a gift and an opportunity I was given, as someone living in the UK, to be able study this degree. I now get to share my gift with others, and to be part of a much wider multi-disciplinary team and an even larger group of volunteers. We get to provide health care which would otherwise not exist for this group of people in West Africa. It will be a privilege to be able to share my Physiotherapy knowledge and skills to members of the younger generation in Guinea so they can take them forward. I too am going to learn so much from the people I meet and the new skills I’ll gain. Hopefully this experience will significantly broaden my world-view for the better.

Mercy Ships ‘exists to bring hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor’. If you’d like to read more, have a look at their website and maybe even consider volunteering yourself.

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