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Sailing on ships that are medical saviours

Rob McLeod and a patient

March 7, 2013

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Adventurous and open minded, 24-year-old Rob McLeod has always strived to help his brothers and sisters around the world. At age 19 Rob took action on behalf of those in need by volunteering with Mercy Ships, the world’s largest charity hospital ship, helping thousands of people in West Africa.

Rob started transforming his compassion into great-hearted action after being involved in a Mercy Ships fundraising event in 2007.

“My experience is really thanks to my father,” Rob said. “After the fundraising event he came home with a DVD copy of Ships of Mercy, which documented the powerful work Mercy Ships was doing in West Africa. I was overwhelmingly compelled by this video and my father’s enthusiasm; so much so, one year later I was boarding the M/V Anastasis in Monrovia, Liberia.”

Rob left his hometown of Mississauga to experience a very different culture and quality of life in Monrovia from May to August 2007, working onboard the Anastasis and the Africa Mercy as a hospital supply assistant.

After completing his undergraduate degree in human kinetics at the University of British Columbia in 2010, Rob left to explore Latin America.

“After five months of adventure I was looking for something more meaningful,” Rob said. “I emailed Tim Maloney [National Director of Mercy Ships Canada] from Nicaragua, and in a matter of days I was booking flights to Freetown.”

“Witnessing Rob’s interaction with the Day Workers in his charge on the Africa Mercywas simply joyful,” Tim Maloney said. “His ever-present warm welcoming smile exuded a compassionate heart that lit the [lives] of those he supervised.”

Rob McLeod & staff on board Africa Mercy

Rob left for his second field service placement, this time to Freetown, Sierra Leone, from February to mid-December of 2011 as hospital day volunteer coordinator, overseeing upwards of 115 Sierra Leonean workers in 16 hospital departments.

As he experienced the joyful spirit, suffering and resilience that so acutely characterize West Africa, Rob was becoming a different person.

“I did not realize how much I was changing. It wasn’t until I set foot back in the developed world that I knew my life would be different forever,” Rob said. “The exposure to such extreme levels of poverty has tuned my conscience to humanity at all times, wherever I am, be it the developed or under-developed world.”

“Beyond those he directly worked with, his charismatic effect was so evident when he visited with children onboard who had received a surgery [that] when it was noticed he was near, there would be this chorus of ‘Rob, Rob, Rob’ as they rush towards him with their arms open,” Tim said. “Mother Teresa reminded us that ‘Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.’ Rob is a shining example of one who through his action shows his love for his fellow man, transforming those he touches one by one.”

Rob’s time volunteering on the ship has influenced his career and future in a tremendous way.

“It really pushed me to pursue my dream of studying then practicing medicine. I left the ship to begin medical school in Sydney, Australia,” he said.

Rob will complete his bachelor of medicine, bachelor of surgery at the University of Sydney in 2015, and will one day return to the Africa Mercy.

As Rob works toward his goal of becoming a surgeon, he aspires to practice medicine that reflects the work of one of his most inspirational figures, Dr. Gary Parker, medical chief onboard the Africa Mercy.

“Dr. Gary Parker inspires me every day. The most selfless, talented man I have ever met,” Rob said.

And Rob himself continues to be a role model for many young adults, incorporating compassion into his everyday actions.

 

Action Items

1)      Raise your consciousness level and push your personal limits

2)      Support the work of Mercy Ships through financial donations, fundraising, volunteering and much more: www.mercyships.ca.

3)      Expand your horizons — there are many ways to learn about different cultures, from taking a cooking class to reading a book to learning a new language!

About the Author(s)

JoJo Beattie

JoJo Beattie is a recent UNBC graduate and freelance writer who works in public relations and communications.

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