Ally Joy is on her way home to Lennox Head after spending the last month volunteering on board a hospital ship docked on the coast of West Africa.
Ally, who is a mobile hairdresser, joined the crew on board the Africa Mercy, the world’s largest independent hosptial ship, shortly after its arrival in Guinea.
Having first heard about Mercy Ships through a close friend who had previously volunteered, Miss Joy was immediately inspired to get involved.
‘I got so moved I knew I had to go but I originally thought I’d have to train to be a nurse and do it later, but God had different plans as there’s one position as hairstylist.’
Miss Joy moved to Lennox Head 10 years ago and recently travelled to Europe with plans to relocate for a year to be with her Belgian partner. But Mercy Ships remained in her heart.
‘I’d looked at the position a few times before, but as I sat in my room in Belgium after waiting months for a work visa that was proving difficult to receive. I prayed and felt God challenge me with the question, ‘What haven’t you done yet that you really know you’re meant to do?’ I knew straight away it was the ship.’
‘After awaiting a Belgian visa and it taking too long I applied for the ship and thought I’ll see what happens. Five weeks later I was flying to Guinea.’
When staffing a hospital ship, a hairdresser isn’t the first need to spring to mind but it turns out to be a vital requirement for the hundreds of crew members who travel from around the world to volunteer for anything from two weeks to two years and even longer.
‘At first I thought, “How important is a haircut in the scale of things?” but after coming on board and seeing the woolly mops walking around I feel my role provides an opportunity for the crew to come and be refreshed physically and also be encouraged.’
The Africa Mercy hospital ship arrived in the port city of Conakry, Guinea, in August 2018 with plans to provide 2,500 life-changing surgeries on board, treat over 8,000 people at a land-based dental clinic and provide health care training to local medical professionals during 10 months in port.
Like all Mercy Ships volunteers, Miss Joy was responsible for covering the cost of travelling to Africa and expenses while on board.
She’d like to return to the ship soon if she can raise the finances.
To support Ally’s Mercy Ships journey, visit https://mercyships.org.au/giving/support-ally-guinea/