My Greatest Mentoring Success: Mr Sendra

Sendra and I are the same age. He is my Gasy Brother. It doesn’t mean that he’s windy, and as many times as I explain it, that joke isn’t funny in another language. ‘Gasy’ can be placed as a prefix for anything that is a Malagasy version or done in a Malagasy way. ‘Madagascan’ doesn’t actually exist here, although it looks nicer without red wiggly lines underneath it. I guess if we referred to vanilla as Malagasy Vanilla no one would know where it came from?


I digress;

When we first met he was nervous about starting his first job in a while. He had a pretty bad year. A newly acquired limp showed how he had broken his leg from a serious car accident, the new title of a single dad after loosing his wife and associated unemployment. As I said, a pretty bad year. When the ship arrived he was just piecing life back together again. Putting the puzzle into some kind of order. He was giving English lessons to some of our translators and selling his marital home to make ends meet. We have worked side by side for over a year now. He was a translator for the medical capacity building team. At least that’s what it says on his badge. In reality he has been my colleague who is as passionate about changing healthcare in his country as I am. Maybe even more so. He has helped me navigate delicate, deeply disturbing, confusing and beautifully upsetting situations. Without a healthcare background you would think that he would faint, vomit or quit. But he never did.

I remember when I wanted to go and work with the midwives to familiarise my self with their equipment and team. Sendra leaned in at one point and whispered “are we actually going to watch that lady give birth”. I have to admit I hadn’t really played out the scenario in my head or thought about the fact this was probably the first time he had seen a birth. I just nodded. His eyes widened and he shouted a silent “help me God”. The baby was born and Sendra was so excited, I’m pretty sure there was a single manly tear.

As I continued to expose this man to uncomfortable situations he thrived and then one day told me he wanted to be a nurse.

He would often feel like he was already a nurse when he was translating and he dreamt that one day he would be able to enter the training program and then teach the Malagasy nurses what he had learnt.  When Sendra translates he teaches and learns at the same time. Each aspect of teaching he puts into practice. I would see his plate contents changing at lunchtime after our nutrition sessions and his hand hygiene would improve after our infection control teaching. Not only that, he would also question other nurses in their methods, as to why they weren’t following procedures.

A few weeks ago Sendra passed an entry exam in to nursing school. I was devastated and delighted. He started last week and now I have to survive without my Gasy Brother. But I know that he will be an amazing nurse. That he has soaked up everything he has translated in the last year and is now a wonderful teacher and mentor.

He said in his recent leaving speech that I treat people with compassion, something lacking in his country and if it were to be practiced then he believes corruption will cease and people will no longer be scared to go to hospital. He wants to follow all that I have taught and teach other nurses the same.

My biggest mentoring success story that I never knew about was happening right under my nose. I never planned it. I never put his statistics in to the data base. Those donors that get a monthly missions report have no idea, because he’s not a participant in any mentoring program yet he is the most educated non-health care professional in town with the biggest heart and motivation to change the world.

I believe his willingness to serve Mercy Ships gave him hope at a time in his life that was messy. That his time here has given him vision and a future that he could have never have dreamed of.

It’s not just the tumour
It’s not just the burn
It’s not just the Fistula

It’s about hope and hope comes to different people in different ways, not always in an operating theatre.

We so often focus on the patients but we have hundreds of day crew that are employed and there are so many inspirational stories that come out of their mouths each day. Sendra says that this ship and its crew will stay in his heart forever and I’m sure hes not the only one.

Sendra has chosen school over money. Or as he describes it he’s chosen a bright future. He has had to stop working for Mercy Ships so that he can study and attend lectures. That means no fixed or steady income. A few crew members have donated to his exam costs. Thank you so much if that’s you. If anyone would like to sponsor him through school then contact me.

Pray for him and his bright future, pray for me that I’ll cope with out him.

©2015 Mercy Ships – Photo Credit Katie Keegan – Sendrarena Miarinjara (MDG), Medical Capacity Building Day Crew

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