When electrician Nathan Foote felt it was time to revisit the humanitarian sector, things just seemed to fall into place. Before he knew it, Mr Foote was leaving Alice Springs to meet the world’s largest independent hospital ship, the Africa Mercy, in Madagascar.
Prior to his decision to join Mercy Ships, Mr Foote had also spent time doing short-term volunteer work in Zambia and Thailand, which left a long-lasting impact.
From there, he set his sights on finishing his apprenticeships while completing home renovations. During that period, he worked a steady job at a power station, but still had a deep yearning to do another type of work, something that had a more humanitarian impact.
“I decided I’ve just gotta do something different,” Mr Foote said.
This meant going overseas to do volunteer work – with no specific end-date in mind. So he searched the two subjects he’s most passionate about: “Industrial Electrician” and “Christian Missions.”
Up popped Mercy Ships, the international charity that operates the Africa Mercy and provides free health care services to those without access in the developing world.
Joining the ship in April, Mr Foote’s dual-trade certifications as an electrician and certified instrumentation and control technician came in handy. He and the other electricians on board assess and address the ship’s electrical needs to ensure the safety and comfort of the ship’s 400+ crew members.
With patients also on board, preparedness and maintenance of the ship’s hospital equipment, power, lighting, and more is also required.
Born in New Zealand before moving with his family to Australia at age 7, Mr Foote travelled with the Africa Mercy to Durban, South Africa, in June for the ship’s annual maintenance period. The ship then sailed to its current field location in Benin, West Africa, in August.
Mr Foote recalls a specific moment during the first round of patient screening in Benin.
Stepping away from his normal work for the day, Mr Foote volunteered with the security team helping to manage and direct potential patients in the lines as they waited to be seen by the Mercy Ships medical team. He was overwhelmed by the sight of it all.
“So many people are suffering with large tumours, bowed legs and more. There is such a need.”
With five operating theatres and 82 patient beds on board, Mercy Ships plans to provide more than 1,700 surgeries to adult and paediatric patients, to treat over 8,000 people at a land-based dental clinic, and to provide training and mentoring to Beninese health care professionals during its current 10-month field service.
As he walks the hospital deck, checking that systems are running smoothly, Mr Foote feels a genuine sense of involvement.
“I like it when I can get a system functioning well because it’s beneficial to everyone – including our patients – and makes people’s lives easier.”
Being an electrician on board a floating hospital ship is a different kind of job, but Mr Foote says, “It’s worth it.”
Mr Foote will complete his service with Mercy Ships in late November with plans to return to Mercy Ships at some stage. “But I haven’t locked anything in as yet,” he concluded.
For further information, please contact:
National Office Manager, Mercy Ships Australia