Closing the HOPE Center :(

Martha plus Facilitators

These 4 women made my job a million times easier and they helped me to have conversations with the patients and mamas I loved so much. I am so grateful for them.

Well the Hope Center closed 2 weeks ago. We finished packing up last week, and now I am working in HR on the ship til I leave in early August. I’m pretty worn out and am happy we will be sailing soon and the atmosphere is so relaxed when we sail (as long as the waters don’t get too rough and I don’t get sick).

The amount of people who stayed at the HOPE Center this year was the highest Mercy Ships has ever had at a Hope Center. Here’s some crazy statistics:

  • 49,143 total patient and CG nights spent at the HOPE Center
  • 29 days over our 234 bed capacity
  • Open 269 days and had less than 100 people only 7 days total
  • 100,337 lunches and dinners provided by the caterer

It was a crazy, busy year, and I loved it so much! You wouldn’t believe all that goes into running a place like this: getting them all their correct food for their Diet Plans, coordinate appointments and getting them to the ship, placing orders, preparing nutritional supplements, dealing with the many, many issues and problems that come up (many of which are ridiculous or amusing), making sure patients are taking medicine or doing what the doctors and nurses told them to do, etc.

Our Facilitator team worked so well together. Some of our local Day Crew were really great. They had so much work too, cleaning after 200+ people daily (many of whom don’t know what a toilet or a shower are because they don’t have those where they are from), teaching health classes, keeping track of when people are coming and going, giving out diapers and soap and meals, etc.

We had so many fun and cute and sweet patients. I feel so blessed that I was able to do this job for 2 years and to have basically the most amazing boss to have ever lived.

The patients who had the biggest impact on me were the babies. I will be vague for privacy purposes. We had the 3 that I have posted most about, Honorine, Mas-Oudatou, and Paul, who had all stayed with us fooooooorever to gain weight and get healthy for surgery. A good part of the year we thought there was almost no chance she would get big enough for surgery. They tried everything, and eventually the only thing left to do was pray. The other 2 babies were almost definitely going to get surgery. One was 3 months old and 4 lbs when he arrived, but he was gaining weight so fast that he became so fat we were sure he would receive surgery. The other one was super small and unhealthy for her age so we wanted to take as much time as possible for her to stay with us so we could make sure she was getting good nutrition to get healthy. Since she was older she was big enough for a minor cleft lip surgery, so we weren’t worried.

But coming close to the end everything was turned up on its head. They all got difference types of infections or sicknesses that prevented surgery and/or made them lose weight. One of my fellow Facilitators suggested we ask the chaplains onboard to ask for all the crew members and day crew to pray for them. We also posted on Facebook that we needed prayers. When one of these babies got sick, it indirectly provided the solution to get her healthy for surgery. The other two had their surgeries postponed and postponed.

When I was called when my favorite baby’s surgery was cancelled for the second time, it killed me because they weren’t sure if she would be well enough by the day the following week for surgery. So there was lots of crying. A few hours later the baby and her mama came back to the HOPE Center. Her mom was sobbing and so sure her baby would never get her surgery or be healthy or normal. I sat with her and cried with her and talked to her through Beatrice’s translation (our day crew who speaks her language). That was one of the hardest conversations of my life. I told her we wouldn’t give up and we would keep fighting and getting her to eat and drink as much healthy food as possible and keep trying to get her strong enough to walk, and it wasn’t over and she would hopefully get her surgery. I didn’t even really believe it at the time myself and was so broken hearted and knowing it was even harder for her mom.

That next week they all got surgery. I sat in the hospital allllllllll day long with that mama trying to support and distract her. The other 2 babies had already received their surgeries, so all of those mamas and babies were there to keep her company too. There were lots of cheers and hugs when she got back from surgery. I’ve never been so relieved. What was really awesome too was that the night after her surgery, there was a community meeting with all of the crew and with the national offices around the world. Because everyone had been praying so much for these 3 babies, they did a feature on the Infant Feeding Program, and the ship’s nutritionists gave a talk, and all of these babies and their moms were invited to the meeting and were celebrated.

My favorite part was when Lee-Anne, one of the Nutritionists, honored and thanked the moms for their nonstop hard work to get these babies big and healthy. Sometimes our patients have to completely disrupt their lives to come to where the ship is for a long time to go through the screening process, surgery, and recovery time. These mamas and the babies stayed the longest. One arrived the day the HOPE Center opened in August and left the day we closed in May. That mom had her work cut out for her too because that baby was so stubborn and hated eating.

Nurses and Dieticians together with some of the babys and their mothers that have been part of the Infant Feeding program.

I love these 2 more than I can put into words.


Since they left 2 weeks ago, two of the moms have repeatedly called Beatrice (who speaks their language) to greet her and me. They don’t have internet where they live (or even know what that is), so I gave them Beatrice’s number so she can message me if they ever need me.

Now all of us who had to live in the team house are now living and working on the ship and loving it. One of our Day Crew named Ruth who worked in Reception at the HOPE Center, was hired on as Crew and will be a Facilitator next year. She’s so amazing, and I’m so glad I have gotten to introduce her to the ship and a new amazing experience (even though it might be a little terrifying). I’ll miss her, but I know once she gets the hang of it she will probably be better at my job than me.

Luckily I get to hang out with her and a few other good friends over the summer as we do a super long sail to the Canary Islands and go into shipyard. While I’m so sad I won’t be with patients or doing the job I love most, shipyard phase is necessary for us to keep doing what we do, so its cool to help out in a different way. I have always wanted to learn about the Mercy Ships HR process, so I’m very happy to be going into this job.

Peace out. I’ll be back in the US in August.


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