Former Langford resident Eiliene Donovan has embarked on a seven-month volunteer opportunity aboard the Africa Mercy, which has a staff of about 450 including surgeons, dentists and other physicians who provide free surgeries, medical training and dental care in developing nations. (Saul Loubassa Bighonda photo)

Former Langford resident gives back in Guinea

Mercy Ships provide free surgeries, dental care in developing nations

Two years ago Eiliene Donovan was working as a care worker and nanny, and while she loved her jobs – she always felt there was more out there.

Now, Donovan feels like she’s found her calling. The former Langford resident recently departed on a months-long trip to Conakry, Guinea where she’ll be working on board the world’s largest charity ship called the Africa Mercy.

The 499-foot ship belongs to a medical charity called Mercy Ships, where about 450 volunteers, including surgeons, dentists, physicians and specialists provide free surgeries, medical training and dental care to people in developing nations.

“I’m ready and excited. It’s been about 10 months in the making,” said the 31-year-old, who will return in January 2019. “I get to see patients come out with straight legs, tumours removed, cataracts cleared up, and I get to see the result of what we offer. Getting to meet patients and getting to be part of their journey will be just more than the icing on the cake.”

For the next seven months, Donovan will be working as a hostess, preparing cabins for new crew and their families, giving tours of the ship, making sure the ship looks like ‘home’ when officials and donors visit and ensuring staff are fed for the journey.

Being a volunteer with Mercy Ships has been at the back of Donovan’s mind since she first heard about the service when she was young. It wasn’t until December 2016 when Donovan figured she was in a good position in her life to do what she wanted to do, and decided to apply to be a volunteer.

In 2017, Donovan embarked on a first two-month journey with Africa Mercy, where she worked as a housekeeper, while it was docked in Cameroon. Following that stint, Donovan returned to her current home in Vancouver and applied almost immediately to return, knowing “this is what God had put in [her] from day one.”

Donovan is particularly excited about the upcoming trip as she’ll be able to interact with patients more than her previous trip.

“When I was there I only saw patients for a few days so there wasn’t a whole lot of interaction yet,” she said.

“This time it will be months that I’ll be around when the patients are around. I’ll get to see them come out of surgery and into recovery and walking out of the ship healed and whole. It will be really cool.”

Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries, providing services valued at more than $1.3 billion and treating more than 2.5 million beneficiaries. For more information visit mercyships.ca.


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Eiliene Donovan (right) and a local Cameroonian day crew staff unload at a port. Donovan recently embarked on a seven-month volunteer opportunity aboard the Africa Mercy, which has a staff of about 450 including surgeons, dentists and other physicians who provide free surgeries, medical training and dental care in developing nations. (Saul Loubassa Bighonda photo)

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