Thursday 6 October 2016: Emily Border has returned home to Neutral Bay after completing a three-week stint as a volunteer on board the world’s largest independent hospital ship docked in Benin, West Africa.
An operating theatre nurse at the Mater Hospital in North Sydney, Mrs Border first heard about Mercy Ships – the international charity that operates the Africa Mercy – through word of mouth before seeing documentaries about the organisation’s life-changing work in developing nations on television.
“My mum suggested I become a nurse. At first I didn't want to, perhaps just because she was, but I applied to university for nursing and teaching and decided I'd do whichever course I got into,” Mrs Border said.
“Needless to say I got into nursing and I haven't looked back.”
While she was studying, Mrs Border had the opportunity to work in a hospital and village health clinics in Vanuatu, as well as community clinics in Broken Hill and Dareton.
“I guess these experiences ignited a little fire inside me and since then I've wanted to go and volunteer in some capacity as a nurse,” she continued.
Mrs Border joined the Africa Mercy’s post anaesthesia care unit in early September during the hospital ship’s current field service in Cotonou, Benin.
“I had never been to Africa before and to be honest I'm not sure it was very high on my list of places to visit. I was quite nervous for the long travel to get to Africa but being on the ship I felt very safe. Being off the ship and exploring with colleagues was fun and interesting. In some ways it's no different to travelling anywhere else.”
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.
Mrs Border said that while the hardest thing about her role with Mercy Ships was being so far away from her husband and family, the best part was seeing the smiling faces of the patients after they woke up from surgery.
“The joy on their face cannot be described. It is such a spiritual place and most throw their hands in the air thanking everyone they see. It sends tingles down my spine. It's so special to be a part of something so life-changing.”
“We don't realise how long they have lived with their ailments and how much their life will change after the surgery. The welcome back to the ward from family members and nursing staff was also pretty special. It's a community and everyone is so supportive and joyful; it's contagious and I think I've had a smile on my face ever since.”
Now home, Mrs Border will return to work with a desire to serve again with Mercy Ships or a similar organisation, this time with her husband by her side.
For further information, please contact:
National Office Manager, Mercy Ships Australia