A Sheffield A&E nurse will be swapping the Northern General for Southern Africa as she and her husband volunteer aboard the world’s largest floating hospital.
Amanda and Ben Woollard will jet off next month to join the crew of the Africa Mercy, which is run by international charity Mercy Ships and delivers free medical care and humanitarian aid to some of the world’s poorest people.
Amanda, an A&E nurse at the Northern General, will be providing her medical skills, while recruitment consultant boss Ben will work in the ship’s kitchens.
Ben will also have the opportunity to participate in helping local communities to develop sustainable water, sanitation and education programmes as part of on-shore work carried out by volunteers.
Amanda’s volunteering will involve her working on wards and assisting with operations.
The Africa Mercy ship, which is the world’s largest civilian hospital, will be docked in Madagascar during their time on board.
The crew is about 450-strong and the hospital on board includes five operating theatres along with recovery, intensive care and low dependency wards. It has a total of 78 patient beds.
Amanda, aged 27, and Ben, 28, met at the University of Sheffield and settled in the city after graduating, now living in Pitsmoor.
The couple, who are both Christians and attend St Philip’s Church in Sheffield city centre, are involved in a number of local community projects, including working with the Roma Gypsy population in their area, helping to build community links.
The couple are both excited and nervous about their forthcoming trip ahead of leaving for Africa on October 2.
Amanda said: “This is a culmination of a long-held dream. I look forward to using my nursing skills and bringing back new expertise to Sheffield.”
Ben said he is looking forward to the trip after deciding to leave his business, Authentic Recruitment, in the hands of co-workers for three months while he is away.
He co-founded the company three years ago as the firm he was working for at the time would not allow him to reduce his hours to four days a week so he could do volunteer work at a Doncaster prison.
He said: “It’s a privilege to be part of this project and I hope this inspires other business leaders and entrepreneurs to do the same.”
On the ship, Amanda and Ben will be providing help to the population of Madagascar, where more than 90 per cent of people live on just 75p a day.
Mercy Ships say the healthcare situation in the country is ‘rather desperate’, with only two doctors and three hospital beds available for every 10,000 people.
They will be joining up with 400 other volunteers from 40 different nations on board the ship to provide free medical and surgical healthcare.
Those taking part alongside them include surgeons and nurses, cooks and engineers – all paying for the privilege to work and provide a free medical service to Madagascar’s population of 22 million.
Ben said: “Amanda is an A&E nurse and always wanted to go on Mercy Ships ever since she heard about it.
“It is essentially about bringing developed world care to the developing world.
“It docks in a port in a particularly poor area of Africa and has a state-of-the-art hospital.”
The ship will remain in port after picking up volunteers so local people can travel to it for treatment.
Judy Polkinhorn, executive director of Mercy Ships UK, said: “Our volunteers are the lifeline of the ship – without them we wouldn’t be able to do the work we do.
“I would like to wish Ben and Amanda all the very best for their time on the Africa Mercy.”
Ben and Amanda are now fundraising for their trip, as they are providing their time for free and are having to pay for their flights out to Madagascar, as well as living costs, including food.
* To sponsor the couple, visit www.justgiving.com/ben-amanda