Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Last week we experienced a thunderstorm of note. It started during lunch and continued through the rest of the afternoon. This was a conversation in my class:

Student: Miss Estelle, can you please put some music on?

I can't because the power is off.

Is the power off because of the storm?

Yes, it is.

Woah! God is powerful!

How do you respond to that? I just smiled.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Natal Sharks Board

A couple of weeks ago the elementary school visited the Natal Sharks Board for the day.

A skeleton of a great white

'Don't eat us!'

We watched a shark dissection.

Welcome to Appelsbosch...

One of the housing blocks.

We look down into this valley from our rooms.

The amphitheatre. This is where the academy students have their breaktime.

The outside area surrounding the amphitheatre.

The laundry room

The dining room.

My classroom...


...and again...

...and again...

...and one more time.

I hope you enjoyed the tour!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Blog Alert

I have a new favourite blog. Perhaps I am not the most objective reader but I think it is pretty A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

Read MSA Grade One's very first post here. Be sure to become a follower and leave a comment. You will make their day!

Thank you to Miss Elizabeth, the Grade One IT teacher, for your hard work to put this blog together.

Mercy Ships Needs You...yes, YOU!

Yes, I know. It has been a while. Much to catch up on and I will. I promise. But first a little housekeeping...

The Mercy Ships Academy is recruiting teachers for the next school year (August 2011 - June 2012). If you are interested or think you know anybody who could be interested have a look here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This afternoon...

... the captain announced that we had sailed passed the mouth of the Orange River and are now sailing off the coast of South Africa. Sweet.

Sailing Update

This is one rocking ship. Literally.

We have felt the swells and huge waves over the last two or three days. Fortunately the next few days promise to be more calm.

Huge waves hitting the bow.

It's been a fun week of sailing despite the rocking and rolling. There has been a lot of laughter. Just getting our meals has been an adventure; not to mention trying to balance a cup of tea as you fly across the dining room.

On Sunday we participated in the Sailing Olympics. We made up teams of four and played 16 games. We named our team North and South - two members from South Africa and two from North America.

Team North and South.

Visit Murray's Mercy Ship Adventure for more pictures and information about the sailing olympics.

Pictures taken by Murray Crawford

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

From Pollywog to Shellback

Yes, it's true.

We crossed the Equator early on Tuesday morning and are in the Southern hemisphere now. (It's good to be back by the way.)

This recent development means that our entire crew are now what the more experienced seafarers among us call shellbacks. Up until Monday those of us who had never crossed the Equator by ship were slimy pollywogs.

All of this maritime madness can be traced back to seagoing practices from earlier years. Sailors who had never crossed the Equator by ship were not considered well-travelled and labelled pollywogs - a horrible stigma for any sailor.

After an initiation and shellback ceremony, the sailors received certificates to verify their new status. This usually involved some form of celebration ... which is the perfect excuse for a chocolate!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Time To-go...

We left Togo over the weekend and are on our way to my homeland...SOUTH AFRICA!

The Africa Mercy departs the port of Lome, Togo (thanks Murray for the picture)

I am yet to spot whales or dolphins although some people have already seen some. I'll keep you posted...

So far the sail has been good to us. This evening we watched Titanic out on Deck 8. A little bit of irony. A lot of fun.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

July Newsletter

It's on time. I surprise myself sometimes. Read the latest news here.

Welcome to Grade One

We had our Open House this evening for families and students to view their new classrooms and meet their teachers. Here are some pictures of my new classroom on Deck 6.

The door to my classroom. We are busy Grade One bees this year.

Visit The Farrell Family in Africa for some more pictures.

Romeo Touloulou and the Infant Feeding Program

Baby Romeo Touloulou was born on February 25 th , 2010. He came into this world with a cleft lip and palate, a condition seen more often in West Africa than in the developed world.

Romeo's mother, Badokideou, wanted to know why his lip looked the way it did and how she could fix it. She was told to go to the hospital in Lomé. A kind stranger at the hospital told her about Mercy Ships. This was a place – a ship – where she could go to receive free medical treatment, including cleft lip and palate surgeries.

Romeo arrived on the Africa Mercy when he was one week old.

It was determined that surgery could correct Romeo's condition, but he had to gain weight first. He was enrolled in Mercy Ship's Infant Feeding Program. Because of the cleft lip and palate, it was difficult for Romeo to get the breast milk he needed to grow. The milk went into the hole in the roof of his mouth, causing him to spit up. Thus, he was not getting the nutrition he needed, and he weighed only 2.61kg (5.75 lbs).
Romeo's before picture. When he arrived at Mercy Ships he weighed 2.61kg.

Infant Feeding Program Nurse, Melissa Davey, worked with Badokideou, teaching her an alternative method of feeding. The cup method worked best for Romeo. Mercy Ships provided the formula that Badokideou fed to Romeo through a small plastic cup. Since he was not sucking to get his food, there was less spitting up, and more of the formula went into his stomach.

Time passed and sure enough, Romeo gained weight. He began to look healthy and strong. Romeo and Badokideou came to the ship once a week, and Romeo weighed-in and got measured. Then, they were given enough formula to last them the week, until they came back to the ship. He made steady progress, and Nurse Melissa Davey was confident he would be able to have surgery.
Romeo has gained enough weight to have cleft lip surgery!

She was absolutely right! Romeo reached his goal weight, and a Mercy Ships volunteer surgeon performed surgery, repairing the cleft lip.

Even after the surgery, Badokideou continued feeding Romeo via the cup method, yielding great results. Happily, Romeo has grown to 6.13 kg (13.5 lbs). Romeo still has a cleft palate that will have to be repaired at another time, but the Infant Feeding Program at Mercy Ships has given him a healthy start to life. If Badokideou had not been taught an alternate method of feeding Romeo, he would have suffered from malnutrition, and his health would have declined drastically.
Romeo Touloulou after he has been a part of the Infant Feeding Program at Mercy Ships.
Romeo sitting with his mother, Badokideou, in the Infant Feeding room.
Thanks to Melissa and the rest of the Infant Feeding Program team, Romeo will have a chance at a healthy life. He was lucky to have been born at a time when the Africa Mercy was in port in Lomé, Togo. He had perfect timing, and now he is a healthy and happy five-month-old boy.
Romeo with Infant Feeding Program Nurse, Melissa Davey.
Cute hat, Romeo!

Story by Claire Bufe
Photos by Melissa Davey

Friday, July 30, 2010

Crew Picture

Our Communications Department arranged for a crew photo to be taken on Thursday afternoon after the firedrill. It went surprisingly quickly. A reward for anyone who can spot me!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Exile International

This evening at dinner I met a remarkable lady. Bethany is here as a guest of the mental health team. Along with six other women she is leading a trauma care workshop for abused children and children wounded by political violence in Togo.

Bethany started a non-profit called eXile International after a trip to Congo in June 2008. Her experiences there spoke so deeply to her that she started this organisation to provide counseling and healing to former child soldiers.

The stories that she shared sent shivers down my spine. Please visit her blog .The Heart of Exile. or read more about eXile international here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

City of Israel Church

A couple of Sundays ago myself and two friends were invited to attend a church service at City of Israel Church. Emmanuel, a translator on the ward, had a taxi waiting for us outside the port gates and took us to his church in Togo.

The City of Israel church building looks like many of the churches that I have seen since being in West Africa. There is a high wall to seperate it from the street and a high ceiling supported by posts along the sides. The congregation sit on wooden benches or plastic chairs and there is a platform in front.

City of Israel Church from the street

The pastor preaches while Emmanuel (on the left) translates for us

The worship band

The congregation

Sunday School at the entrance to the church


More cuteness

Pastor Israel invited Kelly, Alainie and I to introduce ourselves and share some words of encouragement. Then we found ourselves in a photo shoot! Several pictures were taken with different people. Here we are with the leaders of the church.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

When It Rains, It Pours!

Last Saturday our sweet friend Harriet agreed to drive us around to do some errands. Despite the rain, we braved the roads of Lome. It's rainy season right now, which is great because it is so much cooler outside. But oh dear! When it rains, it really pours! Hooray for Landrovers!

Allison captured some of the flooded roads on camera...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What happens downstairs?

Living on a hospital ship provides some unique opportunities.

On Thursday afternoon I had the opportunity to see what happens downstairs, with my own eyes. I made sure I ate a good lunch, put on some scrubs, a hat and some covers for my shoes and reported to the OR office on Deck 3. I was going to observe surgeries!

I observed a hydrocelectomy (also known as a hydrocele repair) and then about an hour later a hernia repair. Dr Frank, from Uganda, performed both these surgeries.
Dr Frank and Allison hard at work
Not only did I observe surgeries on this day, I also had the chance to observe my cabinmate, Allison, in action. Allison did a wonderful job assisting on the hernia repair surgery. You can read more about her experiences in the operating room at Nurse Missionary.

Allison and I

Then I headed into OR 4. There I observed Dr Leo removing a sinus tumour. The young lady had a tumour that grew from the base of her skull and up the back of her throat into her sinuses and through her nose. I was speechless as I watched Dr Leo, assisted by Mel and Ali, remove this tumour.

I left the operating rooms with a greater understanding of what happens downstairs and with a greater appreciation for our doctors and nurses. And a good reminder of why we are all here.

I did not just observe three surgeries on Thursday. I witnessed three lives being changed by God's love in action.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

June Newsletter

Another month, another newsletter. Click here to read June's news.

Christian Akapovi , a Crystal Clear Future

Christian is nine years old, but he is not like other children his age.

They can read. He cannot. They can play football. He cannot.

Christian cannot do these things because he has cataracts. His father, Adado, explains,“I noticed when he was three years old that Christian had a problem . We would ask him to pick things up , and he would feel around on the table or the floor until eventually identifying the item.

Christian has attended school for only one year. He is unable to read the chalkboard, and it is hard for him to focus and to learn. But his father felt it was important that he attend school. Adado says, “He is struggling to learn things , and he is slow, but I wanted him to be around others his age. I didn't want him to miss out on an education .
Adado spent an incredible amount of time and money taking Christian to hospitals all over Togo and even to Ghana. But none of the doctors knew how to fix the problem. Hope turned to desperation. And desperation turned to despair.

Then, a light shone through the darkness. A man who lived near Adado in Lomé had just received eye surgery for free. The man told Adado and Christian about Mercy Ships and where to go for screening.

Free surgery ?” Adado thought. “Could this be true?

Adado and Christian went to the patient screening site and saw an eye specialist. They were then sent to the Mercy Ships Hospitality Center. An eye tech team performed an external and internal eye examination to determine the appropriateness of surgery. They confirmed that Christian had cataracts in both eyes … and he was a candidate for surgery! He was given a priceless, bright yellow appointment card with a date for surgery.

Christian Akakpovi doing crafts in the ward before his cataract surgery.

Christian with fellow patient Gafar Alassani (center) as the kids play around in D ward. Gafar had a large tumor removed on the right side of his face. Mercy Yovo, left, was having cataract surgery on her right eye.

Adado says, “I couldn't believe it. For so long we had spent all the money we had to find help for Christian. I didn't work for days on end while in hospitals waiting with him. Now, he will get help , and I am so thankful.

Cataracts in West Africa tend to be very dense due to the intense sunlight and the lack of adequate eye care. Dr. Glenn Strauss is an expert on African cataracts and has been working with Mercy Ships for 13 years. He has developed a team onboard the Africa Mercy that is able to perform, on average, 20 surgeries per day!

Christian is rolled out of surgery and begins recovery.

Christian's father, Adado, waits patiently for Christian to recover from cataract surgery.

Just one day after surgery, Christian was feeling upbeat. He was coloring a picture with his father and playing with other kids in the ward. Adado looked at his son and said, “Christian, can you see? What is the nurse wearing?

Adado and Christian color together in the ward.

Big smiles now that Christian can see clearly!

Christian looked up at Mercy Ships Charge Nurse, Ali Chandra, and said, “Yes. I can see. She has a blue band on her head and a blue top.

Ali stood in her bright blue scrubs and blue headband, nodding her head and smiling. “Yep , h e can see!” she said. “Dr. Glenn has done it again.

Now Christian will return home and start school again in the fall. Now he will be able to read the chalkboard and won't have trouble picking up items. He fully appreciates the gift of sight that so many people take for granted.

Thanks to Mercy Ships, Christian's future is crystal clear!

Mercy Yovo with her mother and Christian Akakpovi with his father.

Mercy (left) and Christian (right) get ready to leave the ward on discharge day. They have both received successful cataract surgeries on the Africa Mercy !

Story by Claire Bufe Edited by Nancy Predaina