The new year will see Yorkshire dental nurse Hayley Bell spend three months aboard a floating clinic. Catherine Scott reports.
Hayley Bell is preparing for a four-month trip to the West African nation of Senegal, where she will be volunteering as a dental assistant.
The 47-year-old from Cleckheaton is travelling to the Africa Mercy, the world’s largest charity-run hospital ship, which provides healthcare and training to developing countries.
What inspired Hayley Bell to volunteer with Mercy Ships was the fact that in this country we take good quality healthcare for granted.
“In the UK we are so privileged to have the NHS and all the healthcare we need at our fingertips.
“I want to work with Mercy Ships to provide dental care to the people of Senegal; I know that most of them wouldn’t be able to access the treatment they need any other way.
“I also love the ethics of Mercy Ships and how they work with the local healthcare professionals in the country to leave them skilled and equipped to carry on treating people.”
Hayley, who has been a dental nurse for more than 20 years working in West Yorkshire for most of her career, now works for an agency doing general practice, hospital and community work.
In the past she has had the opportunity of working abroad and has previously helped on the Mercy Ships after reading about the need for volunteers on the internet.
“I have had the privilege of working alongside the dentists mentoring the student dentists at the Guinea University and to see the clinic develop, so that it could stay as a working clinic when the ship left Guinea.
“We also provide oral health education at the Dental clinic so that the patients know how to care for their mouth after receiving treatment.
Mercy Ships is showing God’s love in a practical way, by letting people know they are loved in some of the poorest parts of the world.”
The floating hospital is staffed almost entirely by volunteers from over 40 different nations who work in a variety of roles to help change the lives of some of the world’s poorest people.
Ships are the most efficient way to bring a state-of-the-art hospital to regions where clean water, electricity, and medical facilities and personnel are limited or nonexistent.
Instead of trying to build the facilities they bring life-changing surgeries to ports around the world, providing a safe, stable, fully outfitted hospital ship to help change the odds for thousands of people in need.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 93 per cent of the population do not have access to safe and affordable surgery when they need it.
This results in more than 18 million people dying each year from treatable conditions.
That is more than die from TB, Malaria and HIV combined.
Mercy Ships addresses this global surgery crisis within Africa by sending hospital ships staffed by volunteers to the places where surgeons are needed most.
These surgeons also train local medical professionals who will stay in their home countries, effecting change long after Mercy Ships departs.
Mercy Ships has touched more than 2.7 million lives since 1978.
“We are so grateful for the volunteers who travel to the Africa Mercy to volunteer their time and skills,” explains Hannah Mulvihill, Crew Support Coordinator for Mercy Ships
“Only 50 per cent of the roles on the ship are medical and every role is filled by a volunteer.
“From the cleaners to the nurses, the receptionists to the electricians; we couldn’t offer this vital service without them.”
As for Hayley she is preparing for cabin.
“I am really looking forward to volunteering once again at the dental clinic, using my skills to make a difference,” she explains.
“I will miss my family and friends as I will be away for four months but I am really looking forward to being reunited with some of my friends and it is always great meeting new people from all over the world.
“My family are very supportive of the work I do with Mercy Ships,” add Hayley who is self-funding the trip herself.
The Africa Mercy will stay docked in Dakar, the port capital of Senegal until July 2020.
Hayley will be onboard from February 2 to May 24.
During its stay they aim to deliver around 1,700 surgical procedures and train 1,400 healthcare professionals. Until December 31 any donations made to Mercy Ships from individuals in the UK will be matched by the UK government.
This means that donations made will go twice as far providing lifesaving surgeries and medical capacity building in West Africa. Matched funds from the UK government will be spent directly on changing lives in Senegal
And more volunteers are always needed, and you don’t need to have any medical training.
“It takes a crew to run a hospital ship, both abroad and at home,” says Hannah Mulvihill.
“You do not need any medical training. Only 50 per cent of our volunteers are medics. No matter your skills we have a place for you.”
As for Hayley she hopes that her 2020 volunteering will not be her last for Mercy Ships.
Visit www.mercyships.org.uk for further information about the work of Mercy Ships, and the volunteering opportunities on offer
Mercy Ships is a faith-based international development organisation that deploys hospital ships to some of the poorest countries in the world, delivering vital, free healthcare to people in desperate need.
Since 1978, Mercy Ships has visited 56 countries, providing services worth more than £1.2bn that have directly helped more than 2.7 million people.
They have also trained 42,250 local professionals in their areas of expertise and helped renovate local facilities to leave a legacy that lasts. Among the countries Mercy Ships serves, which lie on the lower third of the World Health Organisation’s Human Development Index, access to safe, affordable and timely surgery is extremely limited.
As a result, countless people suffer and die from “diseases of poverty” that can easily be cured. All donations made to Mercy Ships from individuals living in the UK made by December 31 will be matched by the UK Government.