Volunteering was my intention for coming to Madagascar. I’m working for a beautiful organization called Mercy Ships that runs a hospital ship called the Africa Mercy. They sail to different African countries and spend approximately a year at port in each providing free healthcare onboard to people who desperately need surgeries and dental procedures.
I have no medical expertise to speak of, so I volunteered with housekeeping. It’s not a high-reward job like I imagine the surgeons and nurses must experience. They get to stitch people’s lives back together and nurse patients – not back to health – but to greatly improved health. I’m not a chaplain tending to people’s souls or an accountant keeping the ship finically floating.
I mop the floors everyone walks over. I wipe the toilets they sit their butts on. I disinfect the handrails they drag their germy hands across. I empty the trash bins they fill with sticky notes, snack wrappers and examination gloves.
When people say every job – large and small and medium-sized – matters, it’s true. The ship has a limited amount of time to treat as many people as possible and the workers doing the treating and the organizing of the treating shouldn’t spare a moment to worry about overflowing garbage or dirty floors or unsanitary bathrooms. My team and I keep things moving. Plus, my team consists mostly of local Malagasy people, so I get the privilege to work with them daily and have constant cultural exchanges. I learn from them and in turn, they learn from me.
I am happy to be a small gear in this extraordinary healing machine.