A woman who lived in Orange for 18 years has returned to Australia following six weeks of providing healthcare to people in Africa while on board the world’s largest independent hospital ship.
Therese Knight now lives in the Australian Capital Territory where she is an intensive care nurse at Canberra Hospital.
However, she joined the volunteer crew of the Africa Mercy for six weeks to help people in the West African nation of Benin.
“It is my personal response to the deeper question of what does one do in the face of the world’s poverty and need,” Mrs Knight said.
“One of my sons thinks I am a hero, working in a modern MASH unit, otherwise people are intrigued.
“Imagine a job where every day you change someone’s life, where you see a disfigured face or body made beautiful again and where this is only first of many transformations.
“After a lifetime of rejection and being outcast, patients transform in front of you from being withdrawn and frightened to finding their voice and confidence to join in with others.”
As well as helping the people of Benin, Mrs Knight also served with the Mercy Ships in Madagascar in 2015 and has lived and worked in Israel, Swaziland, Guatemala and Bolivia.
The ship arrived in Benin in August and will be docked in city of Cotonou for 10 months with plans to provide more than 1700 surgeries to adult and paediatric patients, treat more than 8000 people at a land-based dental clinic, and provide training and mentoring to Beninese health care professionals.
“The medical and nursing team work well, despite the high turnover of both. It should not work, it should not be so cohesive but it is the best team I have every worked with,” Mrs Knight said.
“The patients’ spiritual and emotional lives are strong features of our care. On a daily basis the patients sing and give thanks, led by guitars and other rhythmical instruments. Even at a physiological level the reduced stress hormones and elevated feel good hormones aid in healing.
“We cannot fix the problems of unemployment and poverty. They still earn an average of $1 per day but they can experience joy, belonging and a dignity not felt before.
“If I have health, time and money how can I not be part of this amazing work?”