Coffee with: Merciful voyage for former Ladner gymnast
Ladner's Tabitha Goossen is looking forward to a cruise off the coast of West Africa at the end of the month.
But don't be thinking of leisurely games of shuffleboard on the Lido Deck, or cocktails in a comfy lounge recliner by the pool.
The reality will be assisting with some life-changing medical help for many residents making their way to Conakry, Guinea, where Goossen's home for six months starting at the end of August will be the Africa Mercy (seen below).
It's the world's largest charity hospital ship, a 152 metre long, re-fitted and re-purposed rail ferry—one of four vessels in the Mercy Ships fleet.
As its website states, the international Christian charity that was established in 1978 uses its vessels, as well as land-based medical teams, to deliver free health care and developmental programs to the needy—with an emphasis on West Africa.
It's a place Goossen, a 22-year-old former competitive gymnast with Delta Gymnastics, says she wanted to be after hearing about the experience from a friend who had recently served aboard one.
Goossen, who graduated a year ago from UBC's human kinetics program, says she plans to use her knowledge as one the 450 volunteers aboard the Africa Mercy to make a difference.
On the ship she will serve as a receptionist.
"Basically, I will be the first point of contact for pretty much everyone, whether they are patients or other crew members. I will also be qualified to do other medical-related stuff," she says. "They get surgeons, doctors and physios from all over the world to volunteer their time. They provide everything from basic medical care to surgeries for people in West Africa."
She will get the opportunity to spend her off hours viewing some of those medical procedures done on the vessel, and is also hoping to use her knowledge with rehab work on patients.
When Goossen graduated from UBC she decided to take time off to travel and visit Australia and New Zealand, then came back home to Ladner and signed up to serve aboard the Mercy Ships.
"I made contact and they had a place for me," Goossen says.
A few weeks ago she had to attend special safety training courses at the Mercy Ships headquarters in Texas. And with her departure date of Aug. 31 rapidly approaching she is busy raising funds to help pay for her stay aboard the Africa Mercy.
"We have to pay our crew fees, which goes to maintaining the ship," she explains, adding her goal is to raise $8,000, part of which is to help support the organization, as well as pay for her stay.
So far, family and friends have donated around $3,500.
Following her stint on the Africa Mercy, Goossen plans to apply for medical school.
Donations to her fundraising efforts can be made on her Mercy Ships web page at http://mercyships.donorpages.com/MERCYGIFTS/TabithaGoossen/.