GOOD WORK: Sarah Aldridge served as a dental assistant with Mercy Ships in Madagascar.
GOOD WORK: Sarah Aldridge served as a dental assistant with Mercy Ships in Madagascar. Justine Forrest

Mercy Ships opened door to a world of good work for Sarah

A YOUNG Noosaville woman has spent two months on the other side of the world providing dental care for people in need.

Sarah Aldridge travelled to Madagascar to volunteer her time and skills with medical charity Mercy Ships.

The organisation operates the world's largest civilian hospital ship, Africa Mercy.

During its 10-month stay in the port of Tamatave, the volunteer crew will provide more than 2200 surgeries on board, treat more than 10,000 people at its dental clinic and provide training and education to local health care professionals.

Introduced to Mercy Ships by her mother, Miss Aldridge served as a dental assistant in its land-based clinic.

She joined a growing number of Australians who volunteer with Mercy Ships and pay their own expenses, including flights, board and keep.

"My employers, Bay Audio Hearing Experts, granted me three months leave in order to complete this voluntary assignment," she said.

"They also made a donation which went towards my flight, and my family have made donations towards my living expenses on the ship.

"I'm so thankful for their contributions, and to be able to participate in this mission.

"Helping people who are in desperate need has always been important to me.

"I consider it an immense privilege to be part of a team that can reach directly into such a deserving community and make a real difference in the lives of those in need.

"There was extreme poverty, along with the associated problem of poor nutrition, and a lack of educational and medical services.

"In spite of these difficulties, the people were wonderfully positive and grateful for any kindness shown to them."

Miss Aldridge said a highlight of her time in Madagascar had been working alongside other volunteers from around the world.

"The Africa Mercy challenged me in every way possible but I have a feeling I'll come back to Australia having learnt and experienced more than I can imagine."

Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class health care services, capacity building and sustainable development aid to those without access in the developing world.

Founded in 1978, it has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1 billion, with more than 2.5 million direct beneficiaries.

Each year, more than 1200 volunteers serve with the organisation.

Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, health care trainers, teachers, cooks, engineers and agriculturalists donate their time and skills.

For details on the organisation visit the website.