"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29: 11

Thursday, June 27, 2013


1) Mercy Ships has delivered free medical services valued in excess of US$1 billion since 1978.
2) Everyone onboard the AFRICA MERCY is an unpaid volunteer.
3) The crew actually pay crew fees to cover their "board and keep".
4) There are between 50 and 70 children onboard who attend the onboard school (staffed by volunteer teachers).
5) The AFRICA MERCY is an ex-rail ferry designed to transport trains over inland waters. That means is it is flat bottomed, without stabilisers and not designed for Atlantic voyages. It will most likely roll, pitch and yaw like a pig in any sea.
6) Smoking is not permitted AT ALL onboard the AFRICA MERCY.
7) The AFRICA MERCY is dry (with respect to alcohol) though crew members may drink very moderately with a meal ashore.
8) You can volunteer to serve onboard for as little as two weeks or the rest of your life.
9) We have volunteered for 2 & 1/2 years initially but may extend if the kids thrive and we can continue to fund our service.
10) Mercy Ships concentrates it's programs in West Africa as this is where the highest concentration of the poorest of the poor countries exist, typically with 0.0% economic growth and the poorest access to health care.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Our first week in Texas

Our first few days in Texas have been hot.  The temperature range is similar to Singapore at present about 24-32 degrees and we did have a tropical style downpour one day. The pool has been well utilised by all!
The course proper was due to start with an orientation on Saturday so people kept arriving up until late Friday night.  On Saturday we met our course group of about 30 people.  We had some fun ice breaker games to start with and soon we were getting to know each other.  We are living in the family dormitory; there is also a women's dormitory.  I will post some pics soon.  There are two other families with children in our dorm; Corne and Petra from The Netherlands and Oebele and Deborah from The Netherlands and Germany.  Harry is in his element with Corne and Petras eldest daughter, Charlotte who is 5. Even though she is still learning English, they are having a wonderful time playing together. They may also be in the same class in the ship school, the Mercy Ships Academy. The kindergarten teacher, Katie, is also on course with us so three quarters of their class is here - only one other child is already on the ship! Harry has transferred his undying devotion to Miss Katie - sorry Mrs Delucia.
Some of the children who live at the International Operations Center have joined the "kids on boarding" program here so Jack has made friends with Ethan and Mark with Mimi. Unfortunately, neither of these kids will be joining the ship this year. However, there will be plenty of other kids to get to know when we get there.
This week Mick has been doing the Foundations of Mercy Ships and Personal Support Raising courses which I did three years ago. There has been a lot of information to take in and he has likened it to "drinking from a fire hose". Instead of redoing it, I've been working in different areas here.  I spent a morning packing patient care kits for children in the ship hospital; a morning in the kitchen and scullery, and a morning in the warehouse. I think I am back in the kitchen tomorrow again which I really enjoy. It's great to compare how Mercy Ships does it with the way the Navy do it at home.
We also went to Cowboy Church last Sunday.  It was a new and different experience.  The church building was setup like a barn, there was a saddle at the preachers podium and the music was very country and western.
We have our cabin number - 7219, that is on deck 7 down aft - and our flight details to Tenerife departing Dallas 23 July and arriving late on 24 July via London and Madrid. This will be another long day of travel. We also have our Mercy Ships email addresses - mick.dunne@mercyships.org and tammy.dunne@mercyships.org And we have been given details of how to send us snail mail.
At the IOC until 23 July:
Mick/Tammy Dunne - Onboarding Course
Mercy Ships
PO Box 2020
Lindale, TX 75771-2020
Onboard the Africa Mercy after 23 July:
Mick/Tammy Dunne - AFM - (Container OR Crew Mail)
PO Box 2020
Lindale, TX 75771-2020
For articles over 1.5 oz (42 gm) we will be charged US$0.55 per oz (approx US$2.00 per 100 gm) for them to be forwarded to us in the crew mail but no extra for them to be forwarded in the container. Containers are sent about every 4 weeks and take about 8 weeks to get from the IOC to the ship in Congo. So please mark any packages for the container.
Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers.
Tammy and Mick

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The trip

I think first of all, we need to thank all of those who helped us leave.  To Amanda, Louise and Raeleigh, for helping to clean our house; to Jeanette and Dan, Becky and Eng, Tania, and Stacy and Liam for providing such delicious dinners, to Karen and Mike for all the short notice requests, to Viv for driving us to the airport and then finally, to my parents who went way beyond the call of duty in keeping kids calm and happy, helping wherever needed and driving us to the airport.
  The trip to the airport was the calm before the storm. Having made it that far, we were then told without our flight details to Tenerife, we wouldn't be going anywhere. Having queued for half an hour at this point and with the clock ticking, we were unable to access the email from our phones as it was already filed. Fortunately, the QANTAS ticketing supervisor went up to see British Airways as Mick knew the approximate dates and flights.  She returned 15 harrowing minutes later - felt like hours to us in heart attack mode - with said details.  There is a lesson here - QANTAS won't let you fly to the USA if you are not a citizen without flight details out of the USA in hand.  They are fined $5000 per passenger who does not have the information and people have been returned home. Luckily not us!
  By the time we got through customs, we had less then an hour before takeoff.  We barely had time to get lunch, cancel Internet and as we were boarding, Mick was still cancelling his mobile phone. It was a crazy start to the trip.
  Take off was uneventful and the flight was long but fine.  Mark slept really well; Harry did okay, naturally charming the lady next to him and Jack kicked Mick all night so that they both remained awake. 
  The arrival queues at Dallas airport were long and slow. Harry started sobbing and wanting to go home as did I when Jack and Mark began fighting. Eventually we made it outside with less than 30 minutes before the shuttle driver -  Tex - found us. At this point, I was incredibly glad we were on the last part of our journey and thankful for the invention of the iPod touch and in plane USB chargers.
  Outside the airport it was about 30-35 degrees and stinking hot. Harry slept all the way to Garden Valley, Texas as Mick kept the boys awake church spotting. There were heaps by the highway to keep them busy.

  We finally arrived at Mercy Ships at about 6pm local time.  We still had 6 hours of the 13th June to go! ( we had worked out we had already lived through 40 odd hours of this date!)
  Dinner time in the Anchorage cafe as the boys had eaten next to nothing on the plane and a swim - then finally blissful sleep.....
More to come soon.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Connecting Communities By Jack Dunne

When I think about Connecting Communities, it makes me think about Mercy Ships. The role of Mercy ships is to bring hope and healing to the poorest countries in Africa. Mercy Ships is a Christian Charity involving a hospital ship named the MV Africa Mercy. The ship travels to poor countries like Togo and Benin and becomes a temporary hospital.

Inside the ship there are 90 nurses, 15 Doctors, 6 operating theatres and 78 beds.  When people come to the AFRICA MERCY, they are greeted by some of the volunteers and taken into the ship. Then they are operated on in one of the theatres.  In some of these countries there is only one doctor per 20,000 people meaning that most poor people will not get any medical care.

What do you think makes a good community?  I think you create a great sense of community when you get involved or volunteer for something big. This ship is a ship of volunteers with a common purpose – something bigger than individual people.

In Newington Public School our P&C helps improve the school by fundraising.  Whilst it makes money, it also connects people together. The school benefits but so do the volunteers by making new friends and connecting with different people within our area.

Externally, the AFRICA MERCY attempts to improve their host country’s health services and infrastructure where possible.  An example of this is when Mercy Teams go and work alongside the local community to renovate buildings or repair wells.

The ship provides free medical care and it also trains doctors, nurses and medical staff in local hospitals. This means when the ship leaves there are better services in place. This is another way of connecting with the local communities.

The reason I chose to speak about Mercy Ships is because we are leaving for active service onboard in the Republic of Congo in June this year.

Whilst I am sad to leave Newington school community, I am looking forward to being an active participant in the AFRICA MERCY tribe and the local communities ashore in Pointe Noire, Congo.

In conclusion, through our upcoming trip, we are about to connect 3 communities together: Our school in Newington, the AFRICA MERCY crew, and the Congolese I hope to meet. By keeping in touch with me, you can be a part of this too.

Jack wrote this for a speech at school, and also presented a modified version at our Church Commissioning Service. He gave me the okay to post it on the Blog. We are very proud of him.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Last day at school

Today is the boys last day at Newington Public School.  We have been blessed to have such wonderful teachers and friends over the last 5 years here.  I know all three boys have enjoyed their time there, even Harry who has only had 6 months.  Although if we count all of the time Harry has been in and out of the school since Feb 2009, we could probably say it is little bit longer....

Since our boys are so happy at this school, it makes it even harder to leave.  I have been trying to work out exactly what it is that makes it such a great school, and I think it comes down to a few really important factors:
1.   Great Teachers
2.   Great Leadership - thanks Ian and Greg
3.   Great families

All three facets of the school work well together to make a really welcoming environment where our boys have thrived.  I've also tried to think of all the other great things that make up their school days that we might not have in the ship:

  • They will miss the proximity of the school - a 400 m commute may only be beaten by at 10m one 
  • They will miss the park we live opposite - which functions as a great stop on the way home for many families - i.e."playmates on tap"
  • They will miss the school grounds and the familiarity of knowing where everything is
  • They will miss the teachers that they know - who all know them - especially Harry who seems to know everyone
  • They will miss the band that they have learned Music in
  • They will miss Chess club
  • They will miss "Movie Night" that happens the day after we fly out (I should have stayed in the P&C and had some input into that one..)
  • They will miss their friends, some of whom they have known from the day they were born - especially Mark with his good mate Archer....
  • They will miss their neighbours and roaming our street to see who was around to play with
  • They will miss triple-scooter downhill run challenges
  • They will miss skateboard trains
  • They will miss water pistol fights in the park - whether you wanted Jack to squirt you or not
  • They will miss adults yelling "CAR" - (maybe that is just hopeful)
  • They will miss yelling.  Actually, that might not stop - just less space for the noise to dissipate in
  • They will miss the comfort of their school routine
  • They will miss their teachers
  • They will miss their friends - especially all of their friends....
As hard as it is to say goodbye, I know that in time, they will make new friends, settled with new teachers and comfortable in a new school routine.  Until then, Thanks to all at Newington Public School - we will miss you!!