Sunday, December 30, 2012

Funny Signs from Around the World


Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Very Long Week!

I just returned from leading the first ever Mercy Ships Alumni Reunion Cruise. When I started planning this a year ago, I had no idea how much work it would entail!

98 Alumni from Canada, Belgium, South Africa, Holland, the UK, and of course the US, flew into Texas for a 7 day cruise exploring the Western Caribbean. Airport 3 days of airport runs and a 6 hour bus ride down to Galveston.

 The cruise was hosted by the Mercy Ships founders so I had that extra lever of terror added too. 7 Days… 24 hours a day… I planned events so as not to be in competition too much with shipboard activities and worked around schedules.

 Events were very well attended and normally had an attendance rate of about 85% at my major events and about 40-55 % at games and social events. I am very happy with that and higher than I anticipated.

I even held an open event where anyone from the general passengers who wanted to know more about Mercy Ships cold attend and about 30 people attended. Let me put that in perspective. 30 people that are on a paid holiday attended. While the belly-flop competition was held!

I am pretty convinced that I have never ever worked this hard. When I were not hosting, planning or prepping for events, I was chasing down missing luggage and/or people, dealing with a couple of attendee medical emergencies, rescuing missing toys etc. Spiritual warfare took on a brand new meaning for me.

 One of my favorite moments came during prepping for a scavenger hunt that had attendees hunting across the whole 15 deck ship. I had to hide a pack of clues near a three storied Christmas tree and that place was packed, including a bunch of Mercyshippers.

I spotted an elderly lady that was seated near the tree and walked over and whispered my plight into her ear. She calmly took the clues from me and slipped it beneath her blanket, and then slipped it under the tree while having a conversation with me. In one of the lounges the clue led to a window and I hid the clues beneath a chair. 

When I stood up I saw an eagle eyed Chinese waitress looking at me and closing in on me. I explained and asked her not to tell anyone. “No word, no word” was all she said and left.
Afterwards a few teams told me that when they got to the lounge the waitress wordlessly pointed them to the clue. She kept he promise, “no word” indeed. Other teams also reported that various passengers got into the game and pointed them into all different directions… all wrong of course.

Then the stress of getting everyone off  in time to catch a bus back for a 6 hour trip home etc.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What A Wonderful World

Playing For Change is proud to present a new video of the song "What A Wonderful World" featuring Grandpa Elliott with children's choirs across the globe.

In these hard times children and music bring us hope for a better future. Today we celebrate life and change the world one heart and one song at a time!!

If you cannot see the video below, click HERE!



Saturday, October 20, 2012

Plastic Music

to give its proper name... Plastic Musik.

My newest fascination.

What happens when you combine plastic tubes, laundry tubs, musical instruments, and a bunch of classic songs?.............. Plastic Musik!

Plastic Musik is an abstract percussion show that combines innovative instrumentation with high energy, unpredictable theatrics to bring you an enjoyable experience that you are unlikely to forget. 

By using all plastic instruments, including a product known as “Boomwhackers,” Plastic Musik is able to put an unexpected twist on some of the most recognizable songs of our time.  Imagine a complete arrangement of Mozart’s 40th, performed entirely with plastic tubes.  Or maybe Beethoven is more your taste.  Perhaps you prefer the soul of Motown, the classics of the 80’s, hip-hop hits, or lightning fast rudimental drumming.  Whatever your musical taste, they’ve got it covered.  

 Along with the vast repertoire of recognizable melodies and songs, Plastic Musik incorporates carefully choreographed movement, musical improvisation, audience participation, on-stage interaction, and performer personality into a show that is sure to stimulate the senses.

If you cannot see the video below, click HERE!



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Trumpet Playing Teodoro

Note: Catherine Clarke Murphy is a 24-year-old University of Texas Journalism grad and a volunteer writer onboard the Africa Mercy. The following is an excerpt from her blog  about her adventures in West Africa.

Teodoro MylonasOn our last evening in the Canaries I had the good luck of meeting Teodoro Mylonas. Teodoro is the 72-year-old, sweet-natured Greek grandfather you never knew you’d always wanted. Originally from Argentina, Teodoro lived in 27 different countries before settling in Tenerife; his father was an officer in the Salvation Army. In true Argentinian fashion, Teodoro pronounces his “ll” with a “j” and shouts a genuine “mah-ma mi-ah!” when he is impressed, excited or shocked.

He first heard about our organization more than 20 years ago when he read in the local paper that the Anastasis, the Africa Mercy’s predecessor, was going to dry-dock in Tenerife. “A ship coming from Africa full with volunteers?” he said to his wife, “This must be it.”

Having grown up in a household where acts of charity were valued highly, Teodoro wanted to witness this hospital ship of volunteers and see what it was all about.

Teodoro MylonasA bandmaster and spirited musician, he greeted the Anastasis on the docks of Muelle Cruz with his trumpet. He has since played at every arrival and departure of Mercy Ships’ fleet, more than 30 times since 1990.

“I want to bless the volunteers like they bless others,” he said. Thus, when Mercy Ships is docked in Tenerife, Teodoro acts as a local host, taking crew members to dinner, chauffeuring us on errands in his blue Citroen, stopping by to check on his “brothers,” and of course, heralding the ship’s comings and goings with all of the ceremonial fanfare fit for a king. He calls it “Teodoro’s First Class Treatment.”
On Wednesday evening, Teodoro offered to take myself, Chelle and Deb (our wonderful AFM photographers) to the best sunset spot on the island. We grabbed our cameras (and my notebook) for what would be our most memorable night in Tenerife.

I’d like to end by saying after meeting Teodoro I am inspired to “bless people as they bless others.” His ‘pay-it-forward’ attitude set a wonderful example. Quite appropriately, ‘Teodoro’ means ‘gift from God.’

Gracias por todo, Teodoro! Nosotros le apreciamos y le tomamos con nosotros en nuestros corazones a Africa.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Guinea Screening Day

A Mercy Ships crew member carries a young Guinean patient toward the Palais de Pueple, where more than 4,500 patients and caregivers waited in line From a bird’s eye view, Conakry is a skinny peninsula stretching southeast into the Gulf of Guinea. It is webbed with one-way streets and sprinkled with grassy roundabouts – all of which funnel into one route of passage back to the mainland. Right down the center is the main thoroughfare. On weekdays cars crawl in and out like sand in an hourglass. In the port at the end of the peninsula is a blue and white ship, its prominent docking spot catching the attention of (slowly) commuting Guineans daily.

In the skinniest slice of the bottleneck, the main street forks and hugs a rectangular property on which sits the Palais du Peuple, “the People’s Palace.” Before sunrise Monday, Mercy Ships crew members filed off of the blue and white ship and into the first caravan of 15 Land Rovers bound for for the biggest event of the Guinea Field Service – patient screening day.

The People’s Palace is a gray three-story public auditorium with a large front lot and open interior, which made it the perfect venue for Mercy Ships to screen more than 3,454 potential patients. When the Mercy Ships caravan arrived, more than 1,200 people, many of whom had been there all night, already lined the perimeter.

“As we suspected, there is a lot of need,” Managing Director Donavan Palmer said at the site Monday afternoon. “There are 3,000 to 4,000 people in this line. It confirms the need for us to be here.”

Traffic outside the Palais de Peuple – both people and cars.Since the Africa Mercy’s arrival on August 22nd, anticipation in the city had escalated.  Local radio and TV stations ran spots featuring available health services offered by Mercy Ships; crew members passed out flyers with information about screening day; and on the streets of Conakry, word of mouth quickly spread the news of the event. The response was overwhelming. By the end of Monday, an estimated 4,500 potential patients and caregivers had entered the gates.

"As with so many other things in Mercy Ships, we can do together what we could never do on our own,” Africa Mercy Chief Medical Officer and maxillofacial surgeon Dr. Gary Parker said. “Our successful surgical screening event in Conakry this past week is a perfect example of this, as we experienced a combination of the strength of our ship’s community together with the prayers of people from across the world. Together we were able to treat people with respect and compassion, and we were able to keep them safe and secure in what could otherwise have turned into a very dangerous situation as 3,500 people converged in one location hoping to be selected.”

With such a large turnout, patience was required of everyone involved. Guiding patients through paperwork, diagnosis, pre-operative photo and scheduling stations was efficiently handled by approximately 300 crew members. They also passed out water, sandwiches and snacks to patients and caregivers who sat in the waiting areas. Soon the congested station lines mirrored the vehicle traffic outside the gates, but no one was complaining – because on the other side of this bottleneck was much needed health care that was well worth waiting for.

Unfortunately, the backed-up lines during screening are only a microcosm of the substantial need for health care resources in West Africa, and most especially in Guinea.  With 1.3 health care workers for every 10,000 people, Guinea has the lowest ratio of health care workers to population of any countries that Mercy Ships has ever served. In the United Kingdom, there are more than 100 health care workers per 10,000 people.

Despite the sun and long lines, there were plenty of smiles at the screening site.“Guinea has enormous needs for better health care,” Steve Schwind, the Africa Mercy’s Staff Development Manager, told crew members in a briefing prior to screening day.  “Guinea is among the lowest countries in West Africa in terms of health resources, which include medical workers and hospital facilities. It’s among the lowest countries in West Africa in terms of health outcomes such as maternal and child health. And it’s the lowest in life expectancy and overall human development.”

Because Guinea’s needs sprawl far beyond Conakry’s peninsula, Mercy Ships teams will go upcountry for more screenings in November. “Our plan is to have half of our patients come from the greater Conakry area and the remainder from the remote interior regions of Guinea,” Dr. Gary said. “We continue to request the prayers of our Mercy Ships friends and family across the world to see these patients come in as we send our screening team upcountry in November.”

By 9 p.m. Monday night, the lines finally ended, and 852 patients left with either surgery cards or plans for follow-up treatment. It was an amazing day for Mercy Ships volunteers – a strong start to the beginning of a new field service.

Written by Catherine Clarke Murphy
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Michelle Murrey and Debra Bell

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Famous Photos Recreated with LEGOs

Someone called “dak” recreated a number of famous historical and influential photos in “Reflection of Life with LEGO.”

Friday, August 17, 2012

52 reasons why you should date an aid worker

By Allison Smith, Brendan Rigby & Weh Yeoh

In the romance stakes, aid workers often get a bad rap. In fact, recently over at On Motherhood and Sanity, we heard about 52 reasons why you shouldn’t date an aid worker. We love that site, but respectfully, we disagree (yep, clearly not breaking any of the stereotypes outlined). Here’s why:

1. You will never have to suffer through a song by Bono or Madonna in their presence. After all, irrespective of their successful hits, “what do they know about development?”

2. They’re good at bargaining, and always pay close to local price.

3. They know how to fix a bicycle, using only a toothpick, some dental floss and a few small twigs.

4. They’ll be able to tell you the exchange rate in any country, down to the nearest cent.

5. In a crisis, they are seemingly unflappable, even if they’re melting down inside.
6. Impressive gut bacterial flora.

7. They’ll have an plentiful supply of cassava, chia seeds or any other obscure super-foods that you can tap into.

8. They’ll never complain about a hard mattress, a non-fluffy pillow or a cold shower (though you might have to suffer through a story about a harder mattress, less fluffy pillow or a positively arctic shower from years ago).

9. They know how much it should cost to take a taxi from the airport, even if they haven’t been to that country before.

10. They can quote lines from Hotel Rwanda.

11. They’re okay with using squat toilets – in fact, they may even tell you how it’s better for you because it elongates your bowel.

12. They make good +1′s to weddings, birthdays and open house parties. Impress your friends.

13. You will not have to indulge your own sense of guilt at social injustice and global inequalities, as they will take the whole burden on their own shoulders.

14. Smugness doesn’t come easier than when dating an aid worker.

15. Use ‘Moral Credits’ gained from dating an aid worker to offset the morally hazardous aspects of your life.

16. No, you do not have to give a beggar change. Although, there is evidence demonstrating the positive effects of non-conditional cash transfers, it may not have any robust effect on long-term earnings or savings.

17. Never feel like you need to donate clothing to charity again!

18. You’ll have reason to visit all kinds of exotic destinations around the world, places you would have never visited (and perhaps never wanted to…).

19. Get perspective on your cold/sprained ankle/other injury or ailment – hey, it’s not malaria!

20. Your mother will love the fact that you’re dating someone so caring.

21. They will be able to pack a suitcase or backpack as effectively as Mary Poppins.

22. They will be perfectly content if you skimp out on their birthday and take them to the local hole-in-the-wall place, because it serves “real Pho”.

23. They’ll know how to stream obscure interstate cricket matches/American football games/curling bonspiels via your PC.

24. If they are male (and sometimes even if it isn’t), they’ll have an uncanny knack for growing impressive beards. As the band “The Beards” suggests, You Should Consider Having Sex With a Bearded Man

25. They won’t know who Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry or any others on the Billboard charts are, being so out of touch with pop culture “back home”.

26. They know how to use Seatguru to find the safest and best seat on any plane, in case of an emergency.

27. They actually enjoy candle-lit homes, although this is double-edged, as it may take away the romance aspect of candles.

28. Your belief in democracy will be restored, as you will come to appreciate the significance of being able to vote for one of two parties.

29. They’ll know the one spot in any airport where you can find unlocked wifi.

30. Spending too much time on social media and blogs is better than spending nights at some club with that work colleague (“She’s just a friend!”).

31. They’ll have done yoga at some stage – flexibility is good, right?

32. They’ll have a camera on them at all times.

33. They’ll be the first to know about breaking news around the world. “Hmmm, I hope those folk in Galle, Sri Lanka, will be okay after that tsunami..”.

34. They won’t be easily sold by Fair Trade, Carbon Neutral businesses, or any other seemingly quick-fix solutions.

35. They know how to troubleshoot your SMTP settings on Outlook, so you can actually send emails from outside your home network.

36. She’ll know how to wax her legs using candlewax and foolscap paper (although more likely is that she doesn’t wax at all).

37. They’ll be able to track down Vegemite, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, or any other geo-centric snacks, no matter where you are in the world.

38. As they view material possessions as unnecessary and nothing more than a nuisance when moving, you will never have to give them any kind of gifts.

39. You’ll feel better about what you earn in your job.

40. Your son/daughter will become their school’s Model UN President (and work to bring about democratic changes to the Model UN from a bottom-up approach).

41. Have you ever wanted to see bureaucracy at a household level? Yes? Date an aid worker and see that everything is accounted for.

42. Your children will be empowered through a Family Micro-loans and Savings scheme, rather than the orthodox Weekly Allowance scheme, which creates dependency and has shown to only promote sugar highs.

43. Your friends will think you’re going out with someone with the flair and mystery of Indiana Jones, when in actual fact you’re going out with someone closer to Michael Cera.

Michael Cera and Indiana Jones

44. They will never, under any circumstances, inflict Kony 2012 on you.

45. They will be able to seduce you with that most romantic of languages, Bahasa Indonesia. “Saya cinta kamu”. Ah. It warms the heart.

46. You’ll never have to worry about what they look like when they’re not “dolled up”, because chances are, they looked their roughest when you first met them.

47. They are able to use the phrase “I’m going to a networking event” with a straight face.

48. You will get to participate in your first “tweetup” w/ #globaldev wonks in NYC. #smartaid #1milliontshirts #whatonearthisatweetup?

49. You will beat out celebrities to the next batch of exotic and trending baby names.

50. They wouldn’t be caught dead in Crocs.

51. They’ll know how to speak English to anyone, regardless of where they’re from. For example, they’ll say “seeya this arvo” to an Aussie, “Oh! Master, I beg you. I want to doze small small” to a Ghanaian and “why the hell do you call that hat a toque, eh?” to a Canadian.

52. If you end up getting married and your wedding is being paid for by either of your parents….well, let’s just say that aid workers know how to schmooze donors.

World Humanitarian Day

Mercy Ships Pays Tribute to Ghanaian Crew Member who Battled Cancer


Long-time volunteer Gina Adjei honored for her life of service with Mercy Ships.

Garden Valley, TX (PRWEB) August 14, 2012 

On August 19, World Humanitarian Day raises awareness about humanitarian assistance worldwide – and especially about those people who put their lives at risk while serving others. In recognition of this special observance, the global charity Mercy Ships pays tribute to volunteer crew member Georgina (Gina) Achiaa Adjei (August 12, 1965- July 5, 2012), who served onboard Mercy Ships from 1995 until her death from cancer this summer.

Gina Adjei loves on a young patient.
“People take notice of a life filled with exuberant joy, a spirit of worship, and the genuine faith and knowledge that God is good, all of the time,” says former Mercy Ships Hospital Director Jean Campbell. “Georgina Achiaa Adjei lived just such a life.”

Gina first came aboard the Mercy Ships hospital ship, the Anastasis, in February 1995. She had just married crew member Lawrence Adjei, and she was joining him onboard. Gina initially served in the galley with the Food Services Department.

Lawrence and Gina made their ship’s cabin into a home, and in 2004 the pair welcomed their newborn son, Daniel Ashitey, with great joy and celebration. In 2005, the family transferred from the Anastasis to the newest hospital ship, the Africa Mercy. Four years later, the Adjeis welcomed a daughter, Esther Asheley, into their family.

Gina served in several different departments onboard, beginning with food services. She later moved to the Outreach Department, where she was able to focus on sharing her love for Jesus with those she encountered when the ship was docked in West Africa. She also periodically served as a tour guide, welcoming guests and sharing with them the vision and purpose of Mercy Ships.

In her final years with Mercy Ships, Gina was a counselor with the Patient Life Team. She brought wonderful qualities to this role – her total devotion to God, her years of service with Mercy Ships, her deep understanding of the West African culture, and her great compassion.

African crew members play key roles in Mercy Ships. Ghanaian native Gina Adjei served onboard the ship with 16 crewmembers from Ghana.

When Gina first applied to serve with Mercy Ships in 1995, the following was her answer to the question about her calling: “I see God’s calling in my life as a blessing to others who don’t know Him. And to let my way of life and character attract people to Himself, for His glory also to be revealed.”

Mercy Ships Founders Don and Deyon Stephens say, “Gina more than fulfilled this calling. Her life goes on here on earth in all those she touched, be that fellow crew members, patients in the hospital, or untold visitors to the ships.”


The following volunteer positions are currently available for the 2012 Field Service:
Eye Teams:
For more information, contact a Mercy Ships Recruiter at 903-939-7000 or email jobs(at)mercyships(dot)org

The General Assembly of the United Nations has designated August 19 as World Humanitarian Day, to raise public awareness of humanitarian assistance worldwide and the people who risk their lives in order to provide it. Every day, humanitarian aid workers help millions of people around the world, regardless of who they are and where they are. This year’s campaign theme, "People Helping People," is about inspiring the spirit of aid work in everyone.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Thank you London!

"How," they asked -- cab drivers, waiters, the man in the cue at Pret -- "can we possibly compete with Beijing?"

That worry -- along with traffic and terrorism and tickets -- seemed to be the biggest concern of the Brits before the Games began. Beijing had been flashy, staged with an unlimited budget. How would they ever top it?

By being themselves, that's how. By being British and welcoming and funny. By keeping calm and carrying on. By loving sports with a rich, wild, self-amused fervor.

There was no Bird's Nest or Watercube here. The actual Olympic Park wasn't much to look at and will probably be dissembled like a five-year-old's Lego structure in a matter of months. However, the rest of the city, a place of towers and bridges and palaces and history around every corner -- certainly was something to look at. The beauty of the bike race and marathon, Big Ben peeking over the beach volleyball -- that topped anything they built in Beijing.

The Olympics isn't about fancy venues. Most of them become white elephants anyway. It's about tapping into the soul and passion of a country, about a love of sports and a welcome to the world.

And that's how London topped Beijing. -- Ann Killion

By winning gold in the 200-meter butterfly, Chad Le Clos of South Africa ensured that Michael Phelps's record-tying 18th Olympic medal would be a silver. More than that, though, this event gave us a glimpse into two quite wonderful and very Olympic things: The power of a champion to inspire, and Phelps' human side. Le Clos had grown up idolizing Phelps -- he and his coach had watched thousands of hours of tape of Phelps in competition and the South African had been motivated to win his gold at the 2010 Olympic Youth Games in Singapore as a result of Phelps' appearance there as an "athlete ambassador" -- and now, in the adjacent lane, Le Clos had a chance to match Phelps stroke for stroke. After he did -- and out-touched Phelps at the finish -- we got the payoff: a chance to see Phelps escort Le Clos through the medal-ceremony protocol, show him how to pose for the cameras, etc. We'd gotten so accustomed to seeing Phelps as a winner, it was good to see humility and grace when he fell just short. -- Alex Wolff

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Africa Mercy in Drydock!

Every year the Africa Mercy receives vital upgrades and repairs to continue serving the forgotten poor. This short video is an impression of that very important time in this non-profit's efforts. 

If you cannot see the video below, click HERE!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Happy People Dancing on Planet Earth

Video Credit: Matt Harding & Melissa Nixon; Music: Trip the Light

What are these humans doing? Dancing. Many humans on Earth exhibit periods of happiness, and one method of displaying happiness is dancing.

Happiness and dancing transcend political boundaries and occur in practically every human society. Matt Harding traveled through many nations on Earth, planned on dancing, and filmed the result. The video, below, the latest in a series of similar videos, is perhaps a dramatic example that humans from all over planet Earth feel a common bond as part of a single species.

Happiness is frequently contagious -- few people are able to watch the above video without smiling.

If you cannot see the video below, click HERE!

Friday, July 13, 2012


My newest fascination... the Hang. A musical instrument in the idiophone class created by Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer (PANArt Hangbau AG) in Bern, Switzerland. It is made from two deep drawn, nitrided steel sheets that are attached together creating the recognizable 'UFO shape'. There is nothing inside the Hang but air. The top ("Ding") side has a center 'note' hammered into it with seven or eight 'tone fields' hammered around it. The bottom ("Gu") is a simpler surface that has a rolled hole in the center with a tuned note that can be created when the rim is struck.

Here is a video of Hang Massive duo Danny Cudd and Markus Johansson playing the Hang.


Source: Wikipedia and YouTube

Thursday, June 14, 2012

World Blood Donor Day!

Family members from Colorado, Minnesota and Wisconsin join the
“walking blood bank” onboard the hospital ship Africa Mercy

“Every blood donor is a hero” is the theme for the 2012 World Blood Donor Day on June 14. The humanitarian organization Mercy Ships is taking the day to celebrate the heroic role that numerous blood donors play onboard its hospital ship, the Africa Mercy, which is currently docked in the West African port city of Lomé, Togo.

Pat, Michael and Ben Digmann
Mercy Ships provides free surgical, medical and dental care to developing West African nations, along with health and medical training and infrastructure development. Its flagship, the Africa Mercy, is equipped with a state-of-the-art hospital featuring six operating theaters, recovery wards with 78 beds, a CT scanner, an X-ray machine and a laboratory. The ship is staffed by a crew of more than 400 volunteers from over 35 nations, who pay for their own room and board while serving on the Africa Mercy.

Due to space limitations, the ship’s hospital does not maintain a traditional blood bank. Instead, it relies on a “walking blood bank” of pre-screened volunteer donors who are prepared to donate precisely when needed. Since the beginning of the year, more than 200 members of the ship’s all-volunteer crew have signed up for the added commitment to donate their blood to Mercy Ships patients.

Medical Lab Scientist Ben Digmann of Rochester, MN, has donated blood during his current service onboard the Africa Mercy and during his earlier service with Mercy Ships in 2010. Ben is a Laboratory Technologist with the Mayo Clinic Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology in Rochester, MN. His blood type, B+, is in high demand onboard the ship, since it is a common blood type in Africa.

Four-year-old Ellen received Digmann’s donated blood when she underwent facial surgery to remove a tumor on the occipital bone.

“My coworkers in the lab cross-matched me with the patient, as I was the next on the list of our screened donors of that blood type,” says Ben. “Halfway through my lunch break, my coworker Chris Webb found me to tell me that the OR called for a unit of blood. When the OR calls for blood,  that’s an immediate need that can’t wait.  I got up, gave my half-finished plate to the galley staff so they could wrap it in plastic for me to finish later, and went down to donate.”

Ben’s father Michael and his brother Pat also became blood donors when they recently arrived onboard the Africa Mercy. The two Digmanns were part of a volunteer Mercy Team that completed 10 days of service modifying storage shelves onboard the ship and installing windows in a local church. Michael, who lives in West Bend, WI, and Pat, who lives in Boulder, CO, volunteered to be screened for blood donation. Both men are experienced blood donors, and, like Ben, they have the B+ blood type that is frequently in demand.
When Michael and Pat went to the ward to donate their blood, the other members of their Mercy Team went with them. “The donation process aboard the Africa Mercy was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” says Pat. “It was a party! The team was busy enjoying themselves and providing entertainment during the whole event.”

Michael’s donation was assigned to a patient named Lina, who needed maxillofacial surgery. Due to blood loss during the surgery, Pat’s unit of donated blood was also used.

 “I have done over 60 donations in the U.S., and this was by far the best,” says Michael. “I was able to see my unit of blood hanging in the operating room, going into the patient. My son Patrick was able to carry his unit into the O.R. and see it being put to use for the same patient. So my blood, combined with my son's blood, has saved the life of someone in Africa. This is truly amazing. But what is even more amazing is that this type of thing happens all the time on the Africa Mercy.”

For lab technician Ben, the greatest difference between a traditional blood bank and Mercy Ship’s walking blood bank is the personal connection of the donors onboard the Africa Mercy. 

“The blood bank here is a community with a common cause,” he says. “If we don’t have enough blood donors to keep surgeries going, all it takes is one announcement over the intercom, and the lab becomes flooded with willing donors. That sense of community extends to the relationships between the crew and the patients. People here are willing to donate because they see the people who need the blood, and they talk to them, and they become friends. Of course you would give your blood to a friend.”   

On 14 June, countries worldwide celebrate World Blood Donor Day with events to raise awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products, and to thank voluntary unpaid blood donors for their life-saving gifts of blood.  The theme of the 2012 World Blood Donor Day campaign, “Every blood donor is a hero” focuses on the idea that every one of us can become a hero by giving blood. While recognizing the silent and unsung heroes who save lives every day through their blood donations, the theme also strongly encourages more people all over the world to donate blood voluntarily and regularly.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Dogs in Cars

and finally, just a dog playing silly!

photos off Pinterest

Friday, May 11, 2012

Awkward Family Photos

I posted about this site before, but were reminded about this recently... 

My Personal (May) Newsletter!

CLICK HERE to read my latest newsletter!

It is full of stories of hope and healing!

Cute puppies might be involved...!


Mercy Ships celebrates International Nurses Day

Why do nurses from around the world volunteer with Mercy Ships? Watch as they explain what makes the experience of working onboard the Africa Mercy so special.

If this sounds like an adventure you would like to try, visit If you cannot see the video below... click HERE!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I once was blind...

K-Love's morning show's Amy Baumann recently visited the Africa Mercy docked in Togo, West Africa. This story captures Amy's touching experience of meeting a desperate mother hoping for the miracle of vision for her blind baby. Untold tens of thousands more suffer with blindness due to cataracts. With your help, Mercy Ships can provide life transforming surgeries. if you cannot see the video below, click HERE!


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mexico Lindo y Querido

Playing for Change is proud to share a new song/video titled "Mexico Lindo y Querido," that unites musicians across Mexico and demonstrates the beauty of this great country. No matter how many things in this life may divide us, they are never as strong as the things that bring us together. This is the power of music.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Seafarer’s Heart for Mercy Ships

Mercy Ships, a global humanitarian organization, serves a very unique mission. Mercy Ships operates the Africa Mercy, a state-of-the-art hospital ship that provides free medical care to the poorest of the poor in West Africa. Cataracts, disfiguring tumors, hernias, cataracts and goiters are removed. Burn contractures and misshapen limbs are straightened. Post-childbirth injuries and cleft lips are repaired.

Thousands upon thousands of children and adults have been welcomed back into their homes, communities and livelihoods thanks to the healing provided by Mercy Ships. While the medical service given free of charge by Mercy Ships is quite visible, there is also less visible, but equally essential, work required to support the Africa Mercy’s hospital and her medical crew.

This “out of view” work is found deep within the Africa Mercy. Her internal systems, machines and mechanics are under the care of a cadre of professional mariners. The individuals who comprise the Africa Mercy’s engineering staff complete rigorous academic and technical training, as well as an extensive on-the-job internship. In addition, they continuously hone their expertise through a variety of professional development activities.

An integral member of the Africa Mercy’s Engineering Department is mechanic/fitter Denis Sokolov. Denis hails from a family with deep connections to seafaring, explaining with his signature smile, “I come by my mariner’s heart honestly. My father was a seaman for 37 years. He and my mother met and married while they were both working onboard a cargo vessel.” When Denis graduated from technical school, he initially chose a land-based career.

He relocated to England to work in an automobile repair operation. While in England, Denis learned to speak English, and he also decided that his true vocation was as a seafarer. Although qualified to work in the shipyards when he returned to his hometown of Klaipèda, Lithuania, Denis eagerly took the opportunity to earn his “sea spurs” by working alongside his father on a commercial vessel. “I needed to log the required number of hours of sea experience for my credentials.

My Dad showed me how to innovate solutions and be inventive about making things work with parts and supplies on hand. This year-long mentorship gave me an excellent foundation, so that today I can tackle virtually any mechanical or machine-related issue,” he explains. Hard at work in the Engine Room onboard the Africa Mercy Denis continued his career as a mechanic/fitter on a variety of commercial vessels. “I was now married and had a young son.

Family and my faith are very important to me, so my priority was to get onto a good ship that gave me more opportunities to be at home,” he confides. The ideal ship for a family man came Denis’ way via his manning agent, a company that matches seafarers with positions on ocean-going vessels. “My agent asked me if I wanted to go with the Africa Mercy while she was still being converted from a rail ferry into a hospital ship.

I was only going to stay for three months, but after sailing with the Africa Mercy on her maiden voyage in 2007, I felt called to continue. My work with Mercy Ships is very good. The engines are like my babies, and there are so many things I can do to be of help,” he remarks. The Africa Mercy has turned out to be an ideal fit for Denis. “I knew that a seaman’s life, in addition to the harsh and heavy work, meant many months away from home and family.

I am very grateful that my work schedule with Mercy Ships lets me spend more time at home in Lithuania with my family, especially our thirteen-year-old son, Dmitry.” Onboard the Africa Mercy, the first things everyone notices about Denis are his kind eyes and warm smile.

His solid build and obvious strength signal a comforting certainty that the complex mechanical systems and components throughout the Africa Mercy are in very good hands. In fact, Denis’ skillful and dexterous hands are important assets in his service for Mercy Ships.

Years of experience have enabled Denis to use his hands with surgical precision, much like the hands that bring hope and healing in the Africa Mercy’s operating theaters. Missy Brown, the hospital OR Supervisor, is grateful for Denis’ expertise and versatility. “The core of one of the OR’s surgical mallets broke apart after years of service. Within an hour, Denis had hand-machined a new core in his workshop.

It is a blessing to have someone onboard who can retrofit just about anything,” she explains. Denis SokolovSecond Engineer Joseph Biney, who supervises all of the engine room functions, also appreciates the consistent professionalism that Denis and other engineering crew bring to their roles. “The Africa Mercy, like all marine vessels of its size and capacity, must meet rigorous standards of mechanical fitness.

The standards are closely governed through a regular schedule of on-site inspections, improvement works orders and compliance checks. Thanks to the steadfast efforts of our fine engineering crew, including Denis, the Africa Mercy was recently cleared for five more years of service.” Prior to going on leave, Denis puts in as many hours as needed to finish up major projects and minimize the potential for any issues arising in his absence. “I try to make sure there are no surprises for anyone while I’m away and that there are no surprises waiting for me when I get back!”

Denis also plays an important role in providing guidance and expert advice to engine room crew who volunteer onboard the Africa Mercy. He mentors young marine cadets who volunteer onboard the Africa Mercy for work experience. In addition, seasoned professionals – like Tim Abramoff, who brings a wealth of welding expertise to the Africa Mercy – appreciate having Denis to consult with. “This is my first time working in a marine setting.

Denis is the ideal ‘go to’ person to confirm my thinking about a course of action or to provide input drawn from his years of experience,” Tim comments. Engine Hand Michael Graham has dubbed Denis “the Incinerator Whisperer,” saying, “Like the horse whisperer, Denis has this uncanny ability to know what a machine needs. The repair I thought I had completed on our incinerator didn’t take. Denis walked by, looked at the flame, touched some pipes, read some pressure gages and declared the fix. Within short order, the right fix was completed.”

The hospital onboard the Africa Mercy is the anchor of the Mercy Ships mission to deliver hope and healing to the forgotten poor. The consistent and dedicated service of long-time crew members like seafarer Denis Sokolov make sure those anchors hold fast and stay strong.

Written by Joanne Thibault 
Edited by Nancy Predaina 
Photographs by JJ Tiziou, Debra Bell