Rice fields surrounding Antananarivo, rice on the menu 3 times a day here!
A lot has happened in the space of a week!
Since landing in Madagascar on Thursday night, I’ve enjoyed a beautiful bus ride along the convoluted but spectacular road from the capital Antananarivo to the eastern port town of Tamatave AKA ‘Taomasina’ -all of the towns here have both French and Malagasy names which can get confusing! You can follow our travels on an interactive map as I move about here.
In 2 days waiting for the Africa Mercy and her crew, those of us waiting in Tamatave had a chance to share stories and sample the excellent local food! Here are some new friends who will be working in housekeeping, rehab and nursing teams from US, Sweden, and Liberia.
Picture courtesy of Sherri Hawkins-Thompson, bottom left – a very serious character! I will remember to take more pictures myself soon, promise!
On Sunday Morning the Ship arrived with much celebration on deck and dock alike.
On board at last
Since the ship’s arrival, there has been a whirlwind of activity. The amazing crew have embarked well over 100 new crew, not to mention over 200 local ‘day crew’ who support just about every area of operation while we are here.
Before we even arrived, the ‘advanced team’ have been working hard preparing alongside local authorities, renovating hospital buildings and accommodation, hiring the day crew, meeting and working with officials, even setting up donation text systems with the 3 local telephone networks so that Malagasy people can donate to the patient transport fund. Not to mention that in the first of 10 screening sessions planned across the country, the screening team have already seen over 2700 patients in the capital screening for patients to come for surgery.
I am utterly staggered by the enormous diversity of skill, depth of experience, and unrepressed excitement to serve others displayed in everyone I have met in the last week; from ship engineers to ward nurses, translators to kitchen crew to the chaplains (who seem to have learned the names of hundreds of new people in a matter of days).
Driving out of Antananarivo you are entirely surrounded on either side by two recurring themes; where it is wet, there are rice fields (as at the top of this post). Where it is dry, there are bricks. Everywhere you look, as far as you can see, people are fashioning bricks, drying bricks in enormous kilns, stacking bricks, carrying bricks. The Malagasy people are pretty serious about building it would seem!
My friend Chelsea took this as I was too far from the window, which is why my reflection is appearing in the sky like Simba’s Dad in Lion King.
In some ways, people are a bit like building bricks. Each of us occupies a unique position, leaning on those around us and supporting others in such a way that things would not be the same without us. We all need each other.
I also have been reflecting on WHAT it is we are building together. Projects and programmes aside, this is all about people. Nothing of lasting worth can be built without investing in people. The Medical Capacity Building team will be working together to serve and equip our colleagues in Madagascar by bringing a 3 day course to 20 regional hospitals, delivering equipment and training which we take for granted in every operating room back home in the UK.
‘Follow the 2000 year old model of Jesus, Mercy Ships brings hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.’ Jesus didn’t invest in any physical buildings that I have ever heard about, but his life and example of investing in people continues to inspire this Ship’s team from all over the world to work together to serve the people of Madagascar.
This week is going to involve lots of work planning and preparing as a team for our first 3 day surgical safety course in the 2nd week of September.
‘No man ever wetted clay and then left it, as if there would be bricks by chance and fortune. – Plutarch’
I guess that means I better leave you now and get on with it!