Why this North Coast hairdresser is needed on a medical ship
ONE Lennox Head hairdresser is fulfilling her passion to serve the sick and poor in Africa, one haircut at a time.
Ally Joy will soon make her way home after spending the last month volunteering on board a hospital ship, docked on the coast of West Africa.
A seasoned mobile hairdresser in the Lennox Head and Byron Bay area, Miss Joy joined the crew on board the Africa Mercy, the world's largest independent hospital ship, shortly after its arrival in Guinea in August.
Having first heard about Mercy Ships through a close surgeon friend who had previously volunteered, Miss Joy was immediately inspired to get involved.
"I got so moved I knew I had to go but I originally thought I'd have to train to be a nurse and do it later, and luckily there was one position as hairstylist," Miss Joy said
Moving to Lennox Head 10 years ago, Miss Joy recently travelled to Europe with plans to relocate for a year to be with her Belgian partner. But volunteering for Mercy Ships was a passion she longed to pursue.
"I'd looked at the position a few times before and after awaiting a Belgian visa and it taking too long I applied for the ship and thought I'll see what happens ... five weeks later I was flying to Guinea."
When staffing a hospital ship, a hairdresser isn't the first need to spring to mind but it turns out to be a vital requirement for the hundreds of crew members who travel from around the world to volunteer for anything from two weeks to two years and even longer.
"At first I thought, 'How important is a haircut in the scale of things when there people have tumours or burns?,'" she said.
"But after coming on board and seeing the woolly mops walking around I feel my role is a time for the crew to come and be refreshed physically and also be encouraged. It's such a joy to be here."
The Africa Mercy hospital ship arrived in the port city of Conakry, Guinea, in August with plans to provide 2500 life-changing surgeries on board, treat more than 8000 people at a land-based dental clinic and provide health care training to local medical professionals during 10 months in port.
Though serving in a non-medical role, Miss Joy has still had lots of opportunities to witness first-hand the transformations taking place on board.
"One thing that I personally found special was being able to be there when a patient woke up, and hold his hand," she said.
"He had flown in the same day as me from the Congo and was having his right leg repaired as he was burnt in a house fire when he was 11 and is now about 19.
"I'm aware of the patients who don't have family with them and they are the ones I really feel for in this journey. That was special for me."
To support Ally's Mercy Ships journey, visit https://mercyships.org.au/giving/support-ally-guinea/
For more information, visit www.mercyships.org.au