Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
With a track record of giving back to her own communities, Meghan Creech had been searching for some time for an opportunity to take her service work abroad.
The only problem was the 22-year-old Stratford native couldn't find an organization she felt 100 per cent right about. That was until she came across some information online about Mercy Ships, an international charity that uses medical-based vessels to deliver free medical care to people in developing nations. Since 1978 the organization has served more than 70 port areas around the world and has provided materials and services valued at $1 billion.
"The more that I learned about the organization the more that I knew that this was something special," Creech said. "The work (they do) is so life-changing. The patients have often been cut off from society due to their conditions and the surgeries provided give them their lives back."
Having already decided to take this year off from her studies before commencing grad school, Creech took the plunge and signed up to volunteer on board Mercy Ships' crown jewel, the 16,500-ton Africa Mercy, billed the largest charity hospital ship in the world.
Boasting five operating rooms, 82 patient beds, full laboratory services, and living quarters, the Africa Mercy set sail on Jan. 2 for a 10-month stay in the port of Pointe Noire in the Republic of Congo. There medical staff anticipate providing over 3,300 surgeries for adult and child patients on board, treating more than 20,000 at land-based dental and eye clinics, and providing holistic health care education to hundreds of native health care professionals and community leaders.
Creech is volunteering for four months as a hospitality hostess, a job that includes regular duties like cleaning and preparing guest cabins, welcoming new crew, helping set-up for functions, and assisting with boarding.
Speaking with the Gazette last week via email from on board the Africa Mercy, Creech said she hoped to give back to the people of Pointe Noire by supporting the medical crew and interacting with the patients in her spare time.
"I hope to gain a new understanding and appreciation of the world around me," she added.
The daughter of Bill and Marlene, Creech graduated from Stratford Central secondary school and attended the University of Guelph, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts and Science with minors in math and family studies. She always found time for community service; she was active with Stratford Central's Interact Club and the Rotaract Club at university.
"Through these organizations I was able to participate in many community service projects and international fundraising efforts," she noted.
Prior to boarding the Africa Mercy, Creech was living in England, and she says she plans to tour Europe afterwards before returning to Canada to commence her post-graduate studies. She has applied to teacher's college and to audiology and child life (working with children with pediatric illnesses) programs.