A Ladner woman will soon find herself adrift on a floating hospital.
Twenty-two-year-old Tabitha Goossen will be leaving later this month on a flight bound for Guinea, Africa, where she will spend six months aboard the Africa Mercy, a hospital ship.
Africa Mercy is part of a fleet of hospital vessels that serves those in need of health care and aid in the world's poorest countries.
They are dispatched by Mercy Ships, an international Christian charity.
Goossen will be among a crew of 450 volunteers, including doctors, surgeons and nurses. The ship is equipped with six operating rooms and 70 hospital beds.
Staffed entirely by volunteers, Mercy Ships doctors perform free operations on board to correct a myriad of health issues - cleft lips and/or palates, crossed eyes and cataracts, removing tumours and straightening club feet - many of which would be addressed much earlier in life in the Western world.
Thousands of children in developing countries die every year from easily correctable birth defects, such as cleft palates and lips, and those who survive often become outcasts.
Medical and dental teams establish local clinics in villages, many of which have limited or no access to health care. The organization provides wells and water pumps, assists with latrine construction and trains villagers in hygiene and sanitation, a basic defence against the spread of communicable diseases.
The organization also helps communities become self-sufficient in food production and teaches primary health care to locals that want to benefit their community and pass on that information to others.
Goossen, who spent 10 years with Delta Gymnastics and was on the competitive team, earned a degree in human kinetics from UBC last spring. She said she was initially thinking of pursuing a career in physiotherapy but is now considering going into medicine.
She said she had been looking for an opportunity to do some volunteer work and heard about the Mercy Ships program through a friend, who had a really good experience volunteering on one of the ships a few years ago.
While her official role on the ship will be reception, Goossen said during off hours volunteers can help in other areas and with her education she could assist with rehabilitation.
All volunteers are required to pay a monthly fee to help keep the ship running. Goossen is currently in the process of raising $8,000 for Mercy Ships.
For more information, or to make a donation, visit www.mercyships.donorpages.com /MERCYGIFTS.
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