|Harry dancing at patient Naomi's discharge celebration|
We actually said when we started this journey, that if our children return home with more compassion and understanding of other peoples, then it will have been all worthwhile. Well, in Benin, we were fortunate to see just that.
Firstly, Harry befriended a patient from Nigeria, Naomi. At 15 years of age, Naomi's legs were bent and would not straighten. She had been in a wheelchair for a number of years and came to the ship to be operated on by Dr Frank Haydon. She then underwent 8 months of intensive physiotherapy to get her walking again. She even walked down the gangway! After patients have worked so hard, it is wonderful to celebrate their healing with them in a dance party. Harry wanted to be part of Naomi's celebration and so he invited his teacher and classmate along. They all chalked their hair and danced the morning away. It was a huge blessing to see him so excited to be part of her healing and wanting others to share the joy.
|Harry & I with Naomi and her Mum, Evelyn|
|The hair chalking pose|
|Mark's Jenga buddy (& Dad) at the Hope Centre|
Jenga is a game that crosses all language barriers - Mark had some epic battles where the blocks resembled the Leaning tower of Pisa - yet still didn't fall. Everyone sitting in the immediate vicinity was holding their breath when it finally toppled. He loved going back and other boys would find the Jenga blocks when they saw him arrive.
Jack really enjoyed going to the HOPE Centre and making cardboard ships with the patients. He preferred to have a purpose in the visit - and this proved a great one. He enjoys teaching and is a patient instructor.
|Cardboard AFRICA MERCYs|
What is really interesting about all of this, is how happy the younger patients are when they see our kids. Our kids have become happy to break down barriers of language and culture with a game - Jenga, UNO, even thumb wrestling - it helps everyone to feel at ease. And whilst they do this, they have realised that they are making someone's rehab, someone's waiting on results or someones' pain a little easier to manage.
We don't know how our time onboard this ship will affect our boys for the rest of their lives. However, we know that one thing that they will take away from these years is a greater level of compassion and understanding of other's pain - and a lack of fear of those who look different to them or have experienced a life far more arduous that their own. And that for us, is totally worthwhile.
|Smiles say it all|
|Working together to build a mini ship - Friendship|