Martine Roos spent three months in Cameroon as a cook and team leader and looks to return to the ship in September
Martine Roos spent three months in Cameroon as a cook and team leader with the ship Africa Mercy and hopes to return in September. (Submitted)
Volunteering can offer the experience of a lifetime.
Mt. Elgin native Martine Roos, 24, just returned from living and working on board the world’s largest charity hospital ship, the Africa Mercy, in Cameroon.
It was Roos’ second time volunteering on the ship. When she was 18, she spent five months as a steward aboard the vessel in Guinea. This time, she returned for a three-month stay as a cook and team leader.
Roos said she felt like she was home while on board. While it had been nearly six years since her first time on the ship, they provided the same care, but with different people and different friends.
“I am so thankful for what I have, and where I live. Volunteering has made me want a rewarding career helping others. It’s not about the money, but learning everyone’s own unique story,” said Roos.
The vessel is run by a crew of more than 400 volunteers, including surgeons, nurses, teachers, engineers, cooks and more, all working to provide free life-changing surgeries and medical training for those in need.
She described it as one big happy family – from the other volunteers to the patients and the day workers. While working in the kitchen, she had an opportunity to get to know many local Cameroonians who are employed by Mercy Ships and paid a local wage.
Her biggest takeaway was getting to know the Cameroonian people and their culture, along with seeing the changes after their surgeries.
“At the HOPE Centre, I met a mother whose daughter had a cleft lip. Every time I saw her we connected. We would exchange smiles and hugs. We didn’t need to be able to communicate to show love. That is the best communication.”
While on board, the daughter received life-changing surgery that will now allow her to live a normal life. The entire experience to Roos was “amazing,” explaining her time on the ship impacted her life tremendously.
The Africa Mercy is a 152-metre (499-foot) ship that houses five operating theatres and a 78-bed patient ward, specializing in free maxillofacial, reconstructive, plastics, orthopedic, ophthalmic, dental and obstetric fistula surgeries.
Roos plans to return to the ship in September for a year-long stay in Guinea to run the HOPE Centre.