Vololonirina had a facial tumour that started to grow in her cheek when she was 12 years old. Finally, 32 years later, she found hope and healing onboard Mercy Ships, where the tumour was removed.

Nurse Natalie Bullock from Kankakee, Illinois, helped care for Vololonirina after the operation. She remembers when she first met Vololonirina. “I first saw her sitting in the waiting area, awaiting her admission for surgery. She had a beautiful blue scarf covering the lump on her face and seemed fearful. I introduced myself and pointed to the outpatient tent, reassuring her that soon she’d be out of the hospital and would no longer need to cover her face. I didn’t think she would even remember me because she was so reluctant to make eye contact,” recalls Bullock.

“Weeks later, she was discharged and arrived at the outpatient clinic, smiling, with the tumor gone and the same blue scarf draped over her shoulders. Not only did she remember me, but she invited me and a few others to her village to meet her family. They were sure she was incurable and said they couldn’t believe she would ever have a normal-looking face again.”

Bullock has been volunteering with Mercy Ships since 2012. Patients in the wards under her watchful care have had burn contractures, tumours, orthopedic deformities or obstetric fistulas. While she enjoys all specialities of nursing, she comes to the ship with 15 years of women’s health nursing experience. During this field service in Madagascar, she has put that experience to use by leading a team to open a new land-based fistula centre that cares for women who become incontinent after childbirth injuries. Bullock plans to stay in Madagascar after the ship sails to continue her work at the centre.

Mercy Ships requires approximately 750-800 nurses to volunteer for a new 10-month field service in an African country each year. There are about 100 nurses onboard at any given time. Some volunteer for two weeks to several months of service. Others give years and call the ship their home.

In the past two years while in Madagascar, the nurses have cared for patients after more than 2800 free specialized surgeries, helped train 1791 healthcare workers in capacity-building medical courses, and helped mentor 137 medical professionals. Mercy Ships volunteer nurses come from countries around the world and are part of the ship’s global community of over 400 volunteers in various positions from 45 nations.

For information about how to volunteer as a nurse with Mercy Ships during the 2016-2017 Field Service to Benin, West Africa, go to:http://www.mercyships.org/volunteer

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Nisha Kotecha is the Founder of Good News Shared. Having worked and volunteered for charities in the UK for over 10 years, Nisha is on a mission to highlight how amazing charities are.

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