All aboard the Mercy Ship for the Heathfield nurse volunteering in Senegal

16th October

Credit Photo: Mercy Ships; Aerial photos of the Africa Mercy sailing into Tenerife in July 2013

Suzie Cole from Heathfield, East Sussex, is preparing to leave this weekend for a two-month trip of a lifetime to the West African nation of Senegal where she will be volunteering as a ward nurse.

This amazing 24-year-old works at Eastbourne DGH on the CCU (Coronary Care Unit) as a staff nurse and as a resuscitation officer also at Eastbourne Hospital. She is travelling on the Africa Mercy, the world’s largest charity-run hospital ship, which provides healthcare and training to developing countries.

Suzie grew up in Heathfield and attended school there until she was 18 when she moved away to study nursing at the University of Brighton. After finishing university she returned to Heathfield.

Suzie is involved with the community through the children’s and young people’s work she undertakes in her church Welcome Baptist Church, Heathfield. She is a Sunday school teacher for children aged four to seven and seven to 11, and helps out on a Wednesday evening with a youth club for young teenagers and another group for older teenagers. She is also starting a mentoring scheme for teenage girls which she hopes will start up when she returns from Mercy Ships.

Suzie explained her passion for missionary nursing: “Ever since I can remember, nursing has always been in my heart especially nursing in lower economically developed countries where I can make a difference. This is what inspired me to volunteer for Mercy Ships. I feel so fortunate to be able to go to Senegal and be a nurse out there and I am also honoured to help.

“My dad initially told me about how awesome Mercy Ships are as he works for Spring Harvest. Since hearing about the work of Mercy Ships, I have been more and more impressed with the whole organisation especially the love and blessings it brings people.”

Suzie Cole

The floating hospital is staffed almost entirely by volunteers from over 40 different nations, who work in a variety of roles to help change the lives of some of the world’s poorest people.

In sub-Saharan Africa 93 per cent of the population does not have access to safe and affordable surgery when they need it. This results in more than 18 million people dying each year from treatable conditions. That’s more than die from TB, Malaria and HIV combined.

Mercy Ships addresses this global surgery crisis by sending hospital ships staffed by volunteers to the places where surgeons are needed most. These surgeons also train local medical professionals who will stay in their home countries – effecting change long after Mercy Ships departs. Mercy Ships has touched more than 2.7 million lives since 1978.

“We are so grateful for the volunteers who are travelling on the Africa Mercy and volunteering their time and skills. Only 50 per cent of the roles on the ship are medical and every role is filled by a volunteer. From the cleaners to the nurses, the receptionists to the electricians – we couldn’t offer this vital service without them,” Hannah Mulvihill, Crew Support Coordinator for Mercy Ships, said.

As for Suzie, she is preparing for cabin life. “I am looking forward to looking at life completely differently and gaining the joy which comes with mission nursing. I am also looking forward to making new friends and working as part of an amazing team to help others in Senegal.”  

The Africa Mercy will stay docked in Dakar, the port capital of Senegal until July 2020. During that time Mercy Ships aim to deliver 1,700 surgical procedures and train 1,400 healthcare professionals.

Between the October 1st and December 31st any donations made to Mercy Ships from individuals in the UK will be matched by the UK government. This means that donations made will go twice as far providing life-saving surgeries and medical capacity building in West Africa. Matched funds from the UK government will be spent directly on changing lives in Senegal.

If Suzie’s story has inspired you to find out more about the work of Mercy Ships and the volunteering opportunities on offer you can visit