On the Africa Mercy we love giving gifts. Luckily we have a lot of people all over the world who donate things, as well as money so that we can give gifts. We often unload boxes of goodies from our containers that are swapped for smiles in our local community. Recently I was working in the local hospital and I noticed that the kids were all clutching these teddy bears, when I asked where they came from, they replied “Mercy Chips”. I don’t know who took them there but, there they were making children happy. I found out later they had come from a group in the UK who make them each year and send them to the ship. They travelled in a big cardboard box for months crammed in a dark container strapped to another dark container and another and another just like lego.
This summer another delivery arrived. A large blue suitcase with hundreds of teddy bears inside. It had been packed with love by my Mum. She had thrown a summer tea party in her garden to raise money and awareness for Mercy Ships. The Bears were made and donated to the garden party by a group of women who call themselves the ‘Pompey Pensioners’. They were then sponsered to make the long journey to the ship amongst tea and scones by my Mums party guests. They were meant to end up in Benin, but along with the ship they had a change of plan and came to Madagascar with us instead.
As the Surgery Ship sat in the Canary Islands and underwent it’s make over, the bears waited patiently underneath my bed. Then we sailed the length of Africa, around the cape and arrived in Madagascar.
And so after their adventure, the Bears were freed a few weeks ago. Now they are spread across all parts of Madagascar as some of the children that received them have already had their surgery and have since left. Some are still hanging out in the hospital on deck three and some are in the admissions tent awaiting new kids to pick them of the line.
I wonder if the Pompey Pensioners ever imagined that their knitting skills would be spread the length and bredth of Madagascar. I wonder if the other groups that made bears before them know where they ended up? Whether they expected them to be tightly clutched in shabby hospital by little hands.
Or if they even know that they created smiles on the faces of those who are scared, anxious or those who look different and have been called names their entire life?
Free surgery is a pretty cool gift and when you’re an adult you know that. You breathe in that truth and appreciate it. Even if you are in pain after the opperation or you have to be in hospital for a few weeks and miss your family, you do it all because you know that surgery is more important for your future. That it’s life giving!
A child doesn’t know that, not always. They feel the pain and are scared, but they don’t necessarily recognise that an operation can improve their entire life as an adult. They do however, know that bears are cool and that they give good hugs.
So thank you to everyone who makes bears and donates things to this organisation they are needed, appreciated, loved and treasured and they definitely go to a good home! Here’s the proof!
Thank you Ruben Plomp for taking excellent bear pictures, you are a beary good friend!
Check out more of Rubens photography subjects here