The wards are open & we have smiles back in the wards!
I had to check, then double-check, but it has actually been two months since I last sent an update. It was the end of August.
At that point we had been on board for a few weeks, and the start up in Guinea hadn't quite gone to plan. More on that later...
LIFE IN CABIN 6417
Life is very different on board with a child! An obvious statement, but we are learning all the time just HOW different it is. It's also obvious that it is significantly more different for Amy, who has adjusted from being a key part of the Medical Capacity Building team to being full-time Mum. My role has a similar rhythm to before, so I've managed to transition pretty well. But it's Amy that is taking the brunt of the parenting challenges, particularly at night.
Louis is an amazing little chap, and makes us laugh on a daily basis! He's such a joy, is walking everywhere, and making little & big friends always.
I will ask Amy to blog about what she gets up to on a daily basis on board, including supporting other Crew in their roles, taking other Mum's to the market to meet her new local friends, sewing, singing, keeping Louis fed & watered, and basically keeping the family together! I do not envy her job...!
Louis went through a phase of having a picnic at 3am, to get him through the night!
He would sit on the rug, then poke Amy when he was ready to go back to his cot!
BEST LAID PLANS...
When I said the start-up hadn't quite gone to plan, that might be a bit dramatic. Surgeries started on time, patients were screened, and lives are being transformed! However, what affected me most was a delayed container that had a lot of equipment in it for our whole operation, including our tents that we set up on the dock that house our patient screening team, rehab, admissions, and for the first time, our Eye Clinic.
The delay in the container meant contingency plans for all of them. One plan was to hurry the receipt of a brand new tent already on its way. We set the tent up and got the screening team in, only to find the tent had a defect. Rain was getting into the tent & dripping on the equipment, nurses and patients. This prompted more problem-solving (which I love); we managed to find the biggest tarpaulin you've ever seen to cover the tent & keep it dry, but that eventually caused more problems.
Eventually, about six weeks late, we received the container & the rest of the tents. I couldn't quite contain my excitement at its arrival, and actually had to go to the Bridge to see the cargo ship actually docking in the port. We got the rest of the tents, canopies and equipment set up as fast as we could so that others could start moving in & operating how they had planned all along. But those other problems with the tarpaulin over the new tent (are you keeping up?) meant that we had to deem the whole tent unsafe, and move the screening team out. Not an easy decision, as it had impacts on everyone else, but it has proven to be a good decision as the condition of the tent has worsened due to the defect.
We work with amazing people here who - despite all of the inconveniences of delayed containers and defective tents - just get on with it. No complaints, no moaning, just it has to be done so we are going to work extra hard to work it out. You will truly never see a more dedicated, humble, hard-working group of people as the Crew of the Africa Mercy. They are unbelievable at times, in a very good way.
I was very excited when the container finally arrived! I'm sat on one of the tents before we unpacked it.
And that's pretty much what I do for a job: problem solve. I have a few departments that I oversee, and the best way I've managed to explain it was when I was asked to speak to the 1st Grader's in the Academy: "I basically help other people do their jobs". I enjoy having an office where people come with their problems, and help resolve them, hopefully empowering them to make decisions (however difficult) and follow through on it. Sometimes I find the problems myself, and make it my job to fix it or find better solutions.
I also love a good crisis, so when the new tent collapsed at 02:00(am) under the weight of rain and created a swimming pool in the middle thanks to a very waterproof tarpaulin; though we get drenched and potentially faced a situation where we lost the tent & everything in it; and you're not sure how you're going to motivate other team members who are there too, it only motivates me more. Thankfully and miraculously, no equipment or personnel were damaged, and we thank God for that.
I also get pulled into other things, like hosting the Minister of Health who was sent by the President... I have no idea what was being said in this photo...
The current rhythm will continue pretty much until Christmas, with one anomaly.
Amy has bought flights to return to Madagascar in November. The story behind it is probably my favourite story from our 5 years with Mercy Ships. She has written about it in her blog - What is Hope and Healing For Them? - which is very well worth a read.
We also need some help making that happen. Amy is fulfilling a promise she made, and we felt that was right, but we can't really afford it! See her blog for how to help with that one.
We also still need some help with our general support & fundraising. I believe in openness & honesty, and honestly we're not covering our monthly fees with what financial support is coming in at the moment. We have previously asked if some of you want to support us with a £20/month regular financial gift, and I'm going out on a limb to ask again, to see if some of you will consider signing up to be a regular supporter of ours. If we have 20 people giving £20/month (inc. Gift Aid), we will cover our Crew Fees, and any more will help cover our insurance and personal expenses (inc. nappies!).
We've committed every penny we own to this mission, but that will run out eventually.
If you'd like to be one of those 20 (or more), you can sign up to do that here: www.mercyships.org.uk/donate/ - signing up to give monthly, and adding our names in the "if your gift is for a Crew member" box.
And thank you, thank you, thank you, to those who are giving regularly already. It means so much that you would support us being here. Thank you!
Some pictures of us getting out & about with friends. Guinea is a beautiful country, and we have great friends.
Mercy Ships is right in the middle of a 40 day season of prayer & fasting, as we look ahead to the future of the organisation. It's proving to be a great exercise in bringing us closer to God as an organisation, but also as individuals. There are many challenges here, and many delights. Our community on board can be the best & worst of life on board at times, and we are pulled in so many directions. And there's no IPA beers here in Guinea! Tough times. But seriously, we are in a season of seeking God and are excited to see what comes out of this season.
Thank you for reading along; please let us know how you are all doing. It's great to stay connected in with what's going on at "home" and elsewhere.
With lots of love,
Ally, Amy & Louis xxx