Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Liberia's national sports stadium reopened

During the last months of Liberia's brutal 14 year long war in 2003, the SKD Sports Stadium in Monrovia provided shelter for nearly 60,000 refugees. This week, after a $1.3m makeover courtesy of the People's Republic of China, and stadium officially opens with a Liberia -v- Sierra Leone soccer match followed by a music concert. To be honest, I struggle with such use of funds - after all, $1.3m could go a long way to buying food for the many malnourished children here, or could have refitted many of the clinics looted during the war, but I guess its part of the international community's attempt to help boost Liberia's self confidence. Photo of the inside of the stadium taken in August 2003. Olly

Monday, 29 October 2007

Congratulations... Geoff Le Page for winning the SBC Global Sunday chocolate competition. Olly


One of the side effects of the 14 year long war in Liberia is the presence of birds of prey, especially kestrels, which we often see soaring majestically over the port and city hunting forfood. I guess they aren’t short of nesting places in the ruined buildings and abandoned electricity pylons, and their prey is abundant and 100% organic since there has been no use of chemical pest control here for a long time. What beautiful and majestic birds! A constant reminder of the wonders of God’s creation. Olly

Saturday, 27 October 2007

A great Saturday out

Today our dedicated Deckies sacrificed their Saturday off, and ran a shuttle service using a life-boat from the ship to a beach within the harbour. Hundreds of crew took advantage and we all enjoyed the swimming, sunbathing, and exploring of the nature reserve that has grown up around the oil refinery and breakwater, right here in the middle of the heaving city of Monrovia. Anna and Sally both got stung by a jelly fish, and one of the ship's officers (hearing Anna's screams) radioed the ship and they sent a nurse over to treat them both. An unbeatable service, eh?
At the same time, some other dedicated crew sacrificed their Saturday and cooked us a barbecue on the dock for evening dinner, which was no easy task for 400 crew. We all enjoyed the good food and fellowship whilst we watched the sun go down. Olly

Noah's birthday party

Last night we had Noah's eighth birthday party four days early, under one of the big white out-patient tents on the dock. It was a Star Wars theme party, and Sally ran games where the Younglings (trainee Jedi Knights) had to use the Force to guide them through several games. At the end, each Youngling was given a mini light saber. Sally made a cool birthday cake with Noah's biggest hero on it, Master Yoda (Jedi Master), whose little figure even had a light-up light saber. Olly

Friday, 26 October 2007

SBC Global Sunday update

Seriously, does no-one from SBC read this blog? The chocolate remains unclaimed. Olly

A message from Anna

We had a fire drill yesterday and I didn't have fun but my Dad did and at the end of the fire drill I did a tiny bit of playing with Lauren on the dock where we had the fire drill and then I had to go inside because we had visitors and then we played and I got to invite Joyce and Kaitlin although probably you don't know them. Love Anna, aged 6.

Drills, drills, drills.

As the Africa Mercy nears its departure from Liberia, we are spending more time drilling for those emergencies we hope will never happen. Yesterday we had a Fire Drill, in which I led Fire Team 4 into a smoke filled cabin using breathing apparatus, searched and located one victim, extracted her from the scene, checked her vital signs, and delivered her to the waiting Emergency Medical Team for treatment. It was great fun, although I got covered in tomato ketchup which the victim was using as simulated blood. Today we had a Lifeboat Drill, in which I worked as a Sternman on one of the ship's huge 150 person lifeboats, which we lowered and raised in preparation for our 5 day sail to Gran Canaria. This is where many hours of safety training over the last four years pays off. Pictured, a 150 person lifeboat like ours. Olly

Thursday, 25 October 2007

A rare medical condition...

Encephalocele is a rare disorder in which an infant is born with a gap in the skull, through which brain tissue protrudes. Yesterday I met a baby on our ward who has this condition (similar to the one in the photo); his encephalocele protrudes from his forehead above his nose and left eye, and is just smaller than a tennis ball. Without surgery he will most likely die very soon, so our surgeons and medical staff are hoping to operate on the child as soon as possible. Please pray that God gives them great wisdom and skill. Olly

One year in Liberia

One year ago today I left Sally and the kids in the UK and flew to Liberia on my own to prepare for their arrival three weeks later. I felt very small and alone as I looked out of the aeroplane over the thick green Liberian forest. My ride from the airport was nearly two hours late collecting me, and as I stood waiting for him and fighting off beggars, the skies opened and I got soaking wet. Thus began the loneliest three weeks of my life, in the poorest country in the world. How things changed for the better when we were reunited as a family three weeks later! Olly

Friday, 19 October 2007

ANA update

There are a couple of great articles with photos of the ANA awaiting her fate in India, on this blog: A must view for all ex-ANA crew. Olly

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Working in the Recovery Room...

Today I repaired a broken wall cabinet in the Africa Mercy's Recovery Room - it was the furthest yet I had ventured into the hospital, and it was a very moving experience for me, as I worked only inches from an unconscious patient who had just received cleft lip surgery and was slowly staining her pillow and sheets red with a mixture of drool and blood. She was covered in drips and wires that led to machines that went ping, but during the course of my work she slowly started to come around. Her initial blind panic and terror as she awoke was very quickly replaced with peace and trust as she looked around and saw she was surrounded by loving and caring Mercy Ships anaesthesiologists and nurses. How privileged I was to see that moment! Olly

Saturday, 13 October 2007

SBC Global Sunday competition:

A bar of chocolate to the first person from Stopsley Baptist Church to email me quoting "SBC Global Sunday Competition" giving your name and email address. Olly

Friday, 12 October 2007

Anna's true vocation...

Anna has decided she wants to be a make-up artist when she grows up. She regularly makes-up Libby. Olly

The annual cost of peacekeeping in Africa:

The British aid organisation Oxfam has just published a report that calculates the cost of peacekeeping in Africa at $18 billion dollars a year. Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has commented on the report's findings, saying that many countries could have their problems solved if this money was used for sanitation, education and health purposes...Olly

Sinking dredger towed to beach

Many ex-crew will be familiar with the old dredger moored at the end of our dock here in Monrovia. Over the last few days it has started taking on water and yesterday the Harbour Master took the decision to beach it before it sank completely. Today it was towed away to the other end of the port, where it was beached well away from the main shipping channels. Poor old Captain Willy Sumoe is now dredgerless. Olly

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Africa Mercy chocolate competition

Congratulations to Alberta Wray (ex-Africa Mercy crewmember), Tyrone Barton (ex-Anastasis and future Africa Mercy crewmember), and Gordon & Lynne Tyler (current crew): they each win a bar of chocolate for responding to the competition previously posted in this blog. Olly

Sally and Junior

This is Sally with Junior, a resident of Monrovia's Cheshire Home for the Disabled. He has just graduated from the Africa Mercy's Agriculture Program despite being unable to read or write and being wheelchair bound. He proudly talks about God's great creation and the Biblical principles for organic gardening, and loves working in the Home's garden. Olly

Torm Alexandra update

Nearly a month after the succesful righting of the Torm Alexandra, the ship still isn't floating despite constant pumping and welding by the salvage team. They are now sending a team of Liberians in to shovel out the 3 foot thick mud that covers everything, with the hope that once removed the ship will be easier to float. Olly

A fire truck for Monrovia

Our Canadian friends from Buchanen Renewable Energies have donated an ex-British Army fire truck and fire-fighting equipment to the Port of Monrovia's Fire Department, which has had absolutely no equipment since it was looted during the fighting of 2003. The Africa Mercy has also donated a number of fire extinguishers, and I am hoping that we will do some joint exercises as part of our Fire Team Training. Pictured is Calvin from BRE and the Port's Fire Department during a training exercise today. Olly

Ambulances for Liberia

The French government has donated a (small) fleet of used ambulances to the Liberian government. Pictures is the French city of Marseille's contribution delivering patients to the Africa Mercy. Olly

Tug boat update

Yesterday, the rented tugboat Defender arrived in the port of Monrovia from Togo, to replace the disabled Liberian tugboat Bushrod Island. Today the port is a hive of activity again, as the ships that have been sitting for days at anchor out at sea can dock and start unloading. Today also sees the arrival of spare parts and mechanics for the Bushrod Island so repairs to the damaged engine can begin. We are all breathing a sigh of relief. Olly

Friday, 5 October 2007

Tug boat fire

The Bushrod Island, the only tug in the Port of Monrovia, yesterday caught fire and is now disabled and undergoing repairs whilst several supply ships sit at anchor off-shore awaiting the tug's services. This is an absolute disaster for this country - the Port is the gateway to Liberia's economy, and is now effectively closed if it has no working tug. Urgently needed relief supplies cannot get in, nor can rice and other food. Please pray for rapid and good repairs to the tug or a speedy replacement, or the situation could become extreme. Pictured, the unfortunate tug before the fire. Olly

Celebration of Sight

Today was the Africa Mercy's third Celebration of Sight day. Dozens of eye patients who have recently had cateract surgery returned for quick and painless follow-up lazer surgery, following which they celebrated their new gift of sight! It was a wonderful day to be part of, as patient after patient told their stories of blindness, and then how they were given back the gift of sight by the caring Christian eye doctors on the big white ship. Photo of some of the patients waiting for lazer surgery. Olly