Thursday, June 29, 2006

Meet Foday...

Miserable, weak, swollen feet, wasted, sores on his skin, sad.
That is how I first met Foday.
Three weeks later he was a changed boy.
Now he is healthy and happy.

To read more about Foday see the latest Mercy Ships Sierra Leone newsletter at:

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Holland don don...

Well, as of tonight the World Cup is officially over for Holland. It’s don don. Too bad they didn’t make it past the second round. I must say it was quite the match tonight, however I don’t think we can be proud of holding the World Cup record of the most bookings!

Watching the games in Freetown has been interesting. And it’s been fun having something new to do! I’m not usually a football fan year round, but when it comes to the European or World Cup- I’m there.

I think the number of satellite dishes in Freetown probably doubled, if not tripled, at the start of the World Cup. Everywhere you go, you see chalkboards with game times and fees written on them. We often watch at Mamba Point restaurant, 10 min walk or 3 min drive away. It has comfortable seats, a big screen, many expats, good food etc. It’s a pretty nice getaway. We’ve watched one or two games in another restaurant. But by far the best place to watch a game is just outside our gate…

You step outside of our gate, walk about 10 yards up the road, walk across a wooden plank, past the small generator and towards the canvassed tent with a lit light bulb over the entrance way. Actually from our compound you can already hear the excitement of the football match. At the entrance a fee of 500 Leones (equivalent of 15 US cents) is paid and the entertainment begins. I have been there three times now. Twice with a female colleague (escorted to the tent by one of our security guards), once with two white guys. After being shown to an empty spot on one of the wooden benches, we’re ready for the game.

It’s a unique experience…wooden benches, a tent made of wooden poles and canvas over the top, two tv’s at one end, great sound, 40-50 local guys, temperature of about 30 degrees Celsius, the 'aroma' of sweat and of course no other women. The best is that the local guys really get into the games. It’s almost more entertaining to watch them cheer their favorite team on, get annoyed with the refs, dance when goals are scored etc. than it is to watch the game! It’s definitely the liveliest place to watch football.

Anyway, now that Holland is out of the Cup, I’ll have to find another team to support!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Container arrival...

This past Friday a container from Holland arrived. Always quite the event (3-4 times per year). First the container is shipped to Freetown. Then it sits in the port, for an undetermined length of time, waiting to be cleared by customs. Then once it's released it makes its way to the center. Before hand, we get word that the container will be released from the port on a certain day, however, the release is often delayed. Once the particular day is set, we end up waiting around for the container to come; often said to arrive at 4pm but always arriving after 7pm. So, on this Friday evening we received a phone call saying the container was 'on its way' - a famous phrase in Sierra Leone, meaning the container is either really close by, somewhere in traffic, or still waiting to leave the port. We were lucky- this time it came at 730pm- not bad really.

I always expect to have to help unload box after box, always forgetting that there are many local guys who would gladly help us offload the container, for a small fee. So, in the end, I actually didn't do much at all, container-wise. I did however spend the evening playing with 2 year old- Abdul- a VVF patient's child who arrived two days earlier. He is a bit undernourished and has malaria, but what a fun kid. Anyway, we discovered a HUGE teddybear in the container...and couldn't pass up the chance to play with (or on) it.

It was a successful container offloading night!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Day of the African Child...

There really wasn’t a whole lot I felt I could do yesterday for the ‘Day of the African Child’ besides showing some children that they are special and that someone cares. So when I went to the government’s therapeutic feeding center downtown to check on a patient I referred, I brought along stuffed animals to give to the malnourished children. I know it amounts to nothing in the grand scheme of things but it was fun to be able to give them something small to show them that they matter and to brighten up their day. It brightened up my day to see some of the children smile.

See below for more information on the ‘Day of the African Child’ and it’s importance in Sierra Leone.

Taken from article “UNICEF: Children are Africa’s greatest resource”

NEW YORK, 16 June 2006 – UNICEF celebrated the Day of the African Child today, calling on the world to recognize that children are Africa’s greatest resource. “On this Day of the African Child, we celebrate children as the future of Africa,” UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said Friday. “But we also recognize and address the considerable problems they face – from extreme poverty and conflict to malaria, malnutrition and HIV/AIDS.”

The Day of the African Child is celebrated on June 16, the day in 1976 when thousands of black school children in Soweto, South Africa, took to the streets to protest the inferior quality of their education and to demand their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of young boys and girls were shot; and in the two weeks of protest that followed, more than 100 people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured.

The theme of this year’s Day of the African Child is violence against children, which threatens the physical, emotional and psychological well-being of children. Violence is a particularly pressing threat to the current and future well-being of Africa’s children because of the continent’s disproportionate burden of conflict, extreme poverty and HIV/AIDS.

Taken from “Coping with a legacy of violence in Sierra Leone” by Sarah Crowe, UNICEF

MAKENI, Sierra Leone, 15 June 2006 – The decade-long war in Sierra Leone, which left 50,000 dead, was one of Africa’s most brutal. Atrocities against women and children were commonplace. The war turned children into drugged killing machines, giving them power beyond their age.

As countries around the world mark the Day of the African Child tomorrow, this year’s theme – ‘Stop Violence against Children’ – will have a special resonance for the children of Sierra Leone.

During the war in Sierra Leone, 10,000 children were forcibly conscripted as porters, fighters or sexually abused ‘bush wives’. Soon after the war ended in 2002, the full scale of the terrible legacy was revealed at Sierra Leone’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), modelled loosely on South Africa’s panel on apartheid crimes. The TRC does seem to have healed some of the wounds, but the real scars left on children cannot be seen.

Today in Sierra Leone, peace signs boldly declare a new era – ‘War don-don. We love peace’. But violence against children still lurks in the shadows. Roadside cinemas showing extreme violence and rape scenes proliferate in the busy alleys of Freetown and other cities. Admittance costs just a few cents, so the shacks are full of small children.

For the first time in Sierra Leone’s history, however, some help is at hand for these children. Hidden discreetly in hospitals, new centres have been set up to help young victims of sexual abuse – though funding for the centres is fragile.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Thank you Dr. Rick...

Many people ask what happens to the clinic when I take a break…well, work goes on as usual. The patients don’t stop coming! So, I’m happy that there are docs willing to come out here to cover for me while I am away. For the past month Dr. Rick Rogers, pediatrician from Tyler, worked in the out patient clinic. Fortunately this time, there was a lot of overlap and we could work together for almost 2 weeks before I headed off. It was great to work alongside an experienced pediatrician- seeing patients together, bouncing ideas off of each other, learning new drug regimes etc. I am also thankful that Rick was able to cover for me for 10 days, so that I could join the Anastasis crew for the ship’s final sail. Thanks a heap Rick!

Monday, June 12, 2006

back in SL...

I made it back to Sierra Leone- with a one day stop in Liberia. (That's what happens when you use free flights...that don't connect well). My mom and I stayed at the ELWA compound in Monrovia- which was fun to see...and it was on the beach! Not a bad lay over.

Last week Dr Rick Rogers (pediatrician from Tyler) was still here and so we were in the clinic together- which is quite fun. It's a blessing to be able to discuss cases face to face with another doctor! And to know that sometimes there really isn't an answer or solution to the problem.

Today was my first day alone in the clinic. And what a day it was. I worked non-stop from 8am till 6pm. And saw 52 patients throughout the day. Pretty much your usual stuff... malnutrition, malaria, respiratory tract infections, etc. Yes, it was a VERY busy, hectic day. But at the end of the day I feel good knowing I could help so many children.

More next time...

Sunday, June 04, 2006


My time on the ship has come to an end. This afternoon I will disembark the M/V Anastasis for the last time. It’s a sad time, however, I am so thankful for the last ten days I have had onboard. I have loved every minute of it. I guess the hardest thing for me is the fact that in the future I will never be able to show friends and family where I grew up. It’s hard to explain to non-Mercy Shippers what it was like to grow up on a ship and knowing I will never be able to show loved ones my home (for 14 years), is hard. However, I know I will always have the memories of life onboard.

I will remember what it was like to sail, to walk the decks of the ship, to muster for a drill, to eat out on deck, to watch the shooting stars from the bow, to eat in a dining room with so many people, to hang out in the Med Lounge with friends, to walk down the narrow hallways, to sit on the anchor on Aft Deck, to buy snacks at the snack bar, to have sleepovers in the pre-school, to play sticks/sardines/four square outside, to go to devos after lunch, to eat mystery meat, to have lock-ins in the Blue Room, to attend two high school proms one in France and one in Sierra Leone, to laugh during fun nights, to perform with Ships Kids, to listen to pages all day long, to live so close to friends and of course so much more…

I will never forget the M/V Anastasis. She will remain my childhood home. And her service will be remembered by many.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

exciting moments on the final sailing day...

First exciting moment…
I made an awesome discovery while I was up on the bridge. I found a compass observation log book. The front of the book has names written on it…names of captains that were onboard when I was here as a child. And the first log entry was from 1983! Wow, a lot of history has been written on the Anastasis.

Second exciting moment…
Two hours of my time on the bridge were while we were sailing…the second two hours I was up there was when we were drifting (because our berth at the port was still occupied). Anyway, while drifting, we drifted across the Prime Meridian of the World, otherwise known as longitude “Zero”. Mind you, for those staying in Tema, it’s not that exciting as the city of Tema is on both sides of the Meridian, and you can walk across the imaginary line any time you want to. But for me it was fun to be on the bridge as we first crossed it.

Another moment...
Not so exciting...but I was by inspired by friends to take the following picture. Me, standing at the bow of the ship. Enjoy.

morning on the bridge...

Yesterday (Friday June 2nd) was definitely one of the most fun mornings I have had during the sail! I was allowed to go up to the bridge to see what was going on up there. Of course I’ve been to the bridge many times before, as a kid; being able to steer the ship, look on the radar etc. And of course we took many school pictures up there!

I ended up staying on the bridge all morning and thoroughly enjoyed it. It may look like I was actually doing something useful up there…but I really was just playing around. I felt like I was a kid again! The bridge really is a cool place. It was very busy, people coming and going, phone calls going back and forth between the bridge and engine room, the captain speaking to the crew about sail updates, looking out for canoes and bigger ships in the area etc. It was fun to be a part of it for a few hours.

We ended up drifting on Friday from 10am till 5pm...and then started the final bit of our sail...sailing into the port of Tema. The sail came to an end yesterday as we arrived in the Tema port at around 8pm. I am so glad I was able to be here for the final sail.

Friday, June 02, 2006

stars, dolphins & the sun rise...

Last night we had the most amazing time on the bow watching the stars once again. Since it was the last night of the sail there were quite a few people up there. I’m not much of an astronomer so fortunately someone could show me what’s what. We saw the Southern Cross, Big dipper, Scorpion, Jupiter…and some other random things (that I’ve forgotten the names of)!

The coolest thing was that while we were lying down on hatch 1, staring at the sky, we heard people on the bow cheering. Curious to know what was going on, we got up and quickly walked up to the bow. To my surprise we were able to see dolphins swimming alongside the bow of the ship! It was amazing to see them so well at night. The dolphins stayed with us for awhile and then one by one broke away and swam off into the night.

Just after midnight I headed to bed…to wake up only 5 ½ hours later…to watch the sun rise. What a way to start the day!

PS: we're drifting once again...we are 1 1/2 hour sail from Tema...however, there is still a ship docked at our berth...and they're not leaving till 6pm tonight...the sail continues...


The fuel barge came alongside the Ana on Thursday at about 10am. We took on about 400 tons of fuel...the ship before us took 3000+ tons! I guess they're going to a far away place. It took us about 5-6 hours to re-fuel, after which we went on our way again. It was fun to sail again.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

more pictures...

drifting and dolphins...

As of 5pm last night until 830 am this morning the Anastasis was drifting in the Atlantic Ocean. We are waiting to bunker- however one ship was ahead of us and needed 3000+ tons of fuel! So we had to wait. There's a great sense of freedom in simply floating around! We just started the engines again and as I am writing the bunker barge is coming along side of us.

I saw more dolphins yesterday...on Tues there were just a few of them but right by the bow. Yesterday there were at least 100 of them...but off in a distance. It was still fun to see them jumping and doing belly flops! I did my best to get them on camera. (you might have to look very closely at some of the pictures).

starry skies...

Yesterday night was amazing! After finishing a movie at 1030pm me and two others went out to the bow. It was very dark when we got out there so we had to let our eyes adjust a bit. Fortunately it was a clear sky. We were literally looking at thousands of stars. Suddenly I saw a bright flash dash through the first shooting star for the night. It was incredible. We then laid down on Hatch 1 and gazed at the stars. It brought back memories of sleeping out on deck and spending hours watching the stars, satellites etc. After two hours of sky watching I felt saturated and headed to bed, falling asleep to the gentle rocking motion of the Ana!

~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~