A Sidney woman is headed to the Republic of Congo this month to volunteer her time and medical expertise with the charity Mercy Ships.
Peggy Sherwood, 64, is a nurse and has worked at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital since 1984. She was also a member of the Canadian military and spent many years working as a medical professional in Canada as well as in other nations around the world.
Her military job, from which she has since retired, took her to Afghanistan during the war where she worked in the operating room in the field.
“I just think that we are very lucky to live here in North America and to go somewhere like Afghanistan and to see the hopelessness and terrible conditions those people live with, it made me want to do whatever I could to give back,” said Sherwood.
After looking into the work Mercy Ships does around the world, Sherwood decided to get on board with the charity and plan a trip to the Africa Mercy in the Republic of Congo to offer up her skills to those in need.
She will work as an operating room nurse alongside roughly 450 volunteers from upwards of 40 nationalities, each paying their own way to be there, to provide life-saving medical care for some of the world’s most impoverished people.
“I am somewhat saddened that I am no longer part of the military but I realize that I still have much more to accomplish in this life,” said Sherwood.
“I find that I have more time to volunteer on missions and I am excited each time a new door opens and there is a new opportunity.”
Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free healthcare services, capacity building and sustainable development to those without access in the developing world.
The charity, which was founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1 billion and helping over 2.4 million people in need.
Each year Mercy Ships engages more than 1,600 volunteers from all over the world including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers and agriculturalists.
Prior to her trip to the Congo, Sherwood will also fly to Morocco for a week starting next Wednesday to aid in a humanitarian effort with Operation Smile Canada, an organization that provides free cleft lip and palate surgeries to children in need.
“I expect both trips to be very, very busy but I’m looking forward to it,” said Sherwood, who added that apart from pre-trip jitters regarding travel plans and some minor concerns about personal safety in the Congo, she’s ready to go.
“It was one of those things where I’d always wanted to do something like this and it all of a sudden just fell into place.”
Sherwood will return from her trip on May 9.