Floating hospital is a harbinger of hope

By Time of article published Sep 12, 2005

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By Karen Clement

Restoring hope to people disfigured by disease or accidents is just one of the services offered by doctors on board hospital ship Anastasis, now docked in Cape Town.

Anastasis, the flagship for Mercy Ships, docked at Jetty 2 at the V&A Waterfront on Friday.

Mercy Ships is a Christian organisation that travels to the world's poorest countries to provide people with medical treatment and do community development work.

"Our strategy is to rebuild hope. If people are disfigured or have large tumours, they become outcasts in their society," said Todd Sorrell, one of the ship's media officers.

"We do plastic surgery and remove the tumour, so they can lead a normal life.

"We have dentists as well. In the places we go to, many people have never seen a dentist before."

The ship only goes to a country when invited. Anastasis's last stop was Monrovia, Liberia, where it will return on leaving Cape Town.

The ship's doors are open for the six weeks it is in Cape Town to those who want to see what a hospital ship looks like.

"One of our goals in Cape Town is to recruit people, so we hope we'll be taking Capetonians with us when we leave," says Warrie Blackburn, public relations officer for the Anastasis.

While the ship is docked at the Waterfront, Cape Town family Winston and Naomi Myers will board with their two children, Tashwill and Chenell. Winston Myers will work as a second electrician and Naomi as a secretary.

Their children will attend the school on the Anastasis with 45 other children.

Volunteers have to pay R1 895 to R3 159 a month, depending on how long they've been resident on the ship.

So what is the motivation for joining the ship's crew?

"Everyone has a specific reason, but I think it's because people want to serve God by serving his people," explains Chris Guillebeau, another media liaison officer.

The operating theatres are stocked mainly with donated supplies, and many of the medical staff use their vacations to help on the hospital ship. There are some who have been on the ship a long time.

"Our chief surgeon has been here for 18 years. He gave up a lucrative career to come and help," said Sorrell.

Many crew members have sponsors or families in their home country, who pay for their stay.

- The Anastasis will offer guided tours every Wednesday to Sunday. Visitors will meet crew members, and view the facilities on board which include three fully-equipped hospital theatres, a hair salon, bank, dining rooms, children's playground, and the bridge.

After the 75 minute tour, visitors can browse through the curio shop, or have a speciality coffee at the onboard coffee shop.

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