The before-and-after photos are startling.
A young boy with a very crooked leg stands tall after his leg is straightened.
A man with eyes cloudy with cataracts is finally able to see his children.
Young children and adults with facial tumours obstructing their mouths and noses, making it difficult to breathe and swallow, smile widely after having them removed.
This is the kind of work Mercy Ships, a non-government ship-based medical organization, does around the world, and when Mercy Ships national director Tim Maloney spoke to the Ladysmith Rotary Club April 24 at Cottonwood Golf Club, he shared these emotional photos with the club to show the impact of the organization’s work.
Maloney, who lives in Saanich and is a member of the Rotary Club of Sidney of the Sea, joined Mercy Ships in January 2009. Rotary Clubs have a long-standing history with Mercy Ships.
Mercy Ships are floating hospitals.
“We practise what I would say is transformational medicine,” said Maloney. “We’re not involved in cardiology; we’re not involved in oncology. It’s the things that change people’s lives whose lives have been taken away because of something that can be corrected.
“It is truly a world-class hospital. The uniqueness of that ship is that the people you see on the decks, they’re all volunteers and they pay their way to be there. It’s part of what makes the organization work.”
Mercy Ships is a faith-based organization with a mission of “bringing hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.”
“What I can tell you is we are not a preaching organization — we are about the actions that we do,” said Maloney.
Mercy Ships was founded in 1978 and has provided services to more than 2.5 billion people. The organization’s mission is “bringing hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.”
Mercy Ships has served 57 countries since 1978 and transformed 2,420,000 lives.
“I think the most important thing to recognize in numbers is currently, today, on average, every nine seconds, someone’s life is being affected by some action of the volunteers on our ship,” said Maloney.
On the ship, some of the services provided include children’s orthopedics, cataract surgery, plastic surgeries and general surgeries. Mercy Ships also offers maxillofacial surgery, fixing cleft lips and palates.
“It’s the top of the order in terms of dramatic changes in lives,” said Maloney.
As well, benign tumors are removed on the ship.
The largest facial tumor they saw was 8.8 kilograms or about 20 pounds. The man had never been to school and he had no training, but during his long recovery on the ship, the volunteers brought him into the kitchen and taught him how to bake bread.
“Today, he is the head pastry chef in the highest-end hotel in Sierra Leone, with a family, and his children are going to school and he has a normal life,” said Maloney.
Mercy Ships volunteers are very busy off the ship as well.
Off the ship, they provide dental screening and toothbrushes provided by the Tooth Fairy Foundation in Calgary, distributes free eyeglasses courtesy of Clearly Contacts.
Mercy Ships has been moving more and more into building capacity within the country the ship is in, explained Maloney.
“It’s a significant way to make a difference,” said Maloney.
Mercy Ships also offers an agricultural program, and volunteers typically work on a construction project while they are in a country, explained Maloney.
Mercy Ships and Rotary have been connected through strategic partnerships since 1987. Maloney says the partnership is focused on vocational training teams that go into countries to teach skills like optometry and infection control.