Last month, the MV Africa Mercy arrived in Tamatave, Madagascar laden not with goods to trade but rather with over 400 volunteers and the medical supplies and expertise needed to operate a modern medical centre. The Africa Mercy is the largest private floating hospital in the world. It serves the poorest of the poor and will remain in Tamatave for eight months, offering free surgeries that change people’s lives.

All crew and medical staff aboard the Africa Mercy are volunteers who pay their own way including travel expenses, room, and board. They live and work aboard the vessel, bringing medical care to those in need due to a range of ailments from cleft palates to cataracts, fistulas to fractures.

Nurse Hannah Newell of Warrnambool, Australia is currently on board the Africa Mercy completing a four-week volunteer stint during her annual leave from her regular nursing position. Newell tied her choice of nursing as a career to her commitment to volunteerism. “I became a nurse because it was a profession I could travel all around the world with and do volunteer work to help those less fortunate than me… Mercy Ships provided me with a perfect opportunity to use [my] skills to bring hope and healing to those less fortunate, in particular to the Malagasy people.” Hannah sees herself as part of a bigger project, noting the contribution of the entire team on board to the success of the mission. “I get to be part of and see the actual operations that change people’s lives. Every person on the ship, no matter what role they are in, makes it possible for this to happen.”

While in Madagascar, the staff of the Africa Mercy will perform over 1500 surgeries across a period of 8 months. The story of past work aboard the ship is the subject of an award winning documentary, The Surgery Ship. We’ve included the trailer for the film below. If you’ll be in Sydney on December 3rd, there will be a screening of the full-length director’s cut of the feature. Tickets and further information may be found online here.

And, if you are interested in learning more about volunteering aboard the Africa Mercy, check out the Mercy Ships website. There are currently multiple nursing positions open with commitments ranging from two weeks to one year.