Laura Simpson was contemplating volunteering as a nurse when she came across an article that inspired her to take a leap into the unknown.
The 25-year-old perioperative nurse was on a coffee break from her work at Queensland’s Princess Alexandra Hospital when she picked up a copy of Nursing Careers Allied Health magazine.
Inside, she found a story on an Australian nurse who had served as a volunteer with Mercy Ships on board the world’s largest charity hospital ship.
“This particular nurse was speaking so highly of her time with Mercy Ships that I wanted to get involved,” Laura said.
“I have always wanted to leave people feeling better than when I found them and nursing has provided that opportunity both physically
Laura did some research on Mercy Ships and decided to take the plunge, organising to spend six weeks between April and June aboard the Africa Mercy in Togo, West Africa, volunteering in the post anaesthetic care unit.
She said some colleagues were initially amazed that she was giving up her holidays while paying for her flights along with paying weekly crew fees to offset the ship’s running costs.
“It costs like a million dollars a month to run the ship,” she said.
“Everybody is paying and it’s a good cause, and it’s an experience for us as well.”
It was Laura’s first overseas volunteering experience and she said while she knew she was volunteering aboard a hospital ship, she had no idea what to really expect.
“I didn’t know what sort of facilities it was going to have. It was better than I thought it was going to be. It even had a pool upstairs and a Starbucks.”
Africa Mercy has six operating theatres, 80 hospital beds and state-of-the-art equipment with a crew of 450 volunteers providing free health and community services to some of the poorest people in the world.
Laura’s experience aboard the Africa Mercy enabled her to learn new nursing skills, build friendships with health professionals from the United Kingdom, America and from across Australia, and enabled her to even explore a little piece of Africa.
“I got off the ship and saw a little bit of Togo. I went with some people to a market and I also went on a hiking trip,” she said.
Laura said the experience was addictive, and she hoped to return to the Africa Mercy for a longer stint, possibly in 2014.
Laura said her adventure had sparked interest from her colleagues to also volunteer.
“Now several of my colleagues want to come back with me and help as well,” she said.
“Everyone I know who has done it wants to go back – it’s so rewarding.”