Freelance Journalist


CONTACT:  pennydickersonwrites@gmail.com

Penny Dickerson is an independent journalist with a passion for cool people, extraordinary places, and good sushi.

She earned a bachelor of arts degree in journalism from Temple University (Philadelphia, PA) and a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from Lesley University (Cambridge, MA).

Temple University

Passionate about words and writing, Penny has augmented her freelance writing life by working as an adjunct English professor at Florida State College at Jacksonville where she taught English composition and humanities courses. Continue Reading »

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A Cameroon Story: funding for Emmanuel Ambassa

Ambassa Onboard

It is a pleasure to provide an additional digital space and boost to my fellow Mercy Ships     “Crew mate” : Emmanuel Ambassa whose personal journey is inspiring and worthy of both your attention and generosity.

Imagine a father in Cameroon (Central Africa) passing away suddenly and leaving behind ten children and a loving wife. Your whole world stops: laughter ends, long talks with dad cease, and all income is immediately depleted.

This is his personal story.

I am Emmanuel Ambassa, the eldest child of Tabakou Maurice who was a proud man who worked diligently to take care of his family prior to his untimely demise. Now, the responsibility of providing for our family is left to me.

In preparation, I have already obtained the necessary education: a bachelor of science degree from Regional Maritime University See the source image(Marine Engineering) and additionally immersed myself into serving God through missions work with Mercy Ships onboard the Africa Mercy vessel currently docked in Dakar, Senegal.

I began my role with Mercy Ships in December 2018 (Guinea, Conarky) as an “Engine Hand” which is an important role in the daily operations of the ship. In 2019, I was promoted to an “Engine Rating.”

Funding Missions Work

As a missions volunteer, I must pay to serve. It sounds unique, but most missionaries sustain themselves through the generous funding of people just like you who believe in either our non-profit organization or church.Image result for mercy ships logo

Mercy Ships is a global, faith-based charity operating the largest non-governmental hospital ship in the world whose primary mission is to follow the 2000-year-old model of Jesus, bringing hope and healing to the forgotten poor.

For 40-years, Mercy Ships has provided free, world-class healthcare to developing nations along the coast of West Africa.  As mentioned, the Africa Mercy is currently docked in Dakar, Senegal through June 2020.

Click here to donate to Emmanuel’s fund!

The Passion Pursuit

See the source imageMy father’s death changed me in monumental ways. Growing up, I was always passionate about machines and derived great pleasure from fixing things and studying the way they work.

While I wasn’t sure how to transfer these interests into a career, Mercy Ships provided a feasible inroad for me to join the maritime industry and gain invaluable experience while  also giving back. In order to continue this path,

I must raise $12,000 in funding to continue my service through 2020. 

Click here to donate to Emmanuel’s fund!

Miracles have kept me afloat through my university studies and the duration of my first field service. I’ve been blessed to witness God provide for me through different people and in ways I never could have imagined.  My passion is solid, my faith is strong, but my coffers are near empty, so this financial appeal is crucial.

Godly Purpose and Goals

I am very passionate about my personal mission at Mercy ships and hope you will help me fulfill this mission. Further, I strongly believe God is using this period of my life to teach me how to be selfless and always think of others. Image result for Godly purposeMy intent is to volunteer at Mercy Ships through 2020, then obtain a job as a marine engineer in Cameroon to help my family members attend university and accomplish their dreams.

Long term, I intend to open a training workshop where I can  help train less privileged children to develop skills they can then utilize to contribute to society and provide for themselves and their families. This is economic empowerment, and this is a big part of who I am.

Hope.jpgPlease, can you help me fulfill this mission?

I must raise $12,000 in funding to continue my service through 2020. 

Click here to donate to Emmanuel’s fund!

These funds will help pay my monthly crew fees, required medical insurance, hygiene/clothing/miscellaneous monthly costs, cross-country travel, gifts/offering/tithes.

Thank you in advance for your gift and willingness to sow a seed into my dream, advancement of my career, and the Mercy Ships mission.

Blessings always,

Emmanuel Ambassa

Note: By sponsoring a volunteer crew member today, you will become a valued partner — a Crewmate! As a Crewmate, you are helping make a lasting impact on the people of Africa. By supporting a crew member, you are a part of bringing even more hope and healing to the forgotten poor. Your commitment to support this dedicated volunteer will help transform lives through surgical intervention, medical capacity building, and community development. Thank you for making a difference with your gift today!

Ambassa in control room

Penny Dickerson 2019

Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships. Further, Emmanuel’s bio is not an extraction from any original Mercy Ships material.

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Mercy Ships: Visiting the House of Hussein

Experiencing Africa extends far beyond the depth and reach of island tours, fabrique markets, and the more sophisticate relaxation modes that I’ve partaken in like a spa weekend at the Radisson’s “Buddatude” Spa. During my time in Dakar, Senegal, I’ve been blessed to indulge in a wide array of cross-cultural excursions, but none have blessed my heart as the magnitude of being invited to the house of “Hussein” and embracing an overwhelming, everending extension of hospitality that gives lift to the often mistaken and exploited living status of Senegeles people. I’ve said it before, African’s across the continent are resilient, confident, resourceful, exhuberant, and spiritual people with a work ethic that marvels global counterparts who may leave the gate with more fiscal muscle, and maybe even technology, but lose the race because they don’t have one necessary component: fortitude.

Sometimes my writing, pizzazz-pennnings, and social-scribes are meant to bless the masses and hopefully, those of you reading these words will, too, be enlighted. But most important, this one’s for me. The real lives, the cultures, the behind the scenes “nitty gritty” and “tried and true” aspects of what makes Africa great are the nucleus of who I am and also a driving force behind my current work with Mercy Ships Africa Mercy. 

Today, the Africa Mercy hospital onboard Deck 3 performed it’s first surgery: a two-year-old baby boy with a cleft palate who is undoubtedly first-ranked and one of many more who will receive hope and healing from our non-governmental, charitable organization whose vision is to transform lives one nation at a time and we can’t say it enough: bring hope and healing. We are doing just that, in West Africa, in Senegal, and today was a revelant reminder of the critical work that will be completed in Dakar throughout our field service that spans into 2020. Stay tuned and look for the updates on this surgical milestone. I will update this to direct you to the appropriate site!

As for me, I have been quarantined with a bug of sorts, and my cabin and I have held court together for the past 48-hours. While it is almost over, it has been a timely blessing on the Lord’s part as I have received much needed rest, communed with Him, enjoyed praise music (without earphones!) and of course gained enough strength to do my favorite activity: reflect and write. It’s a horrid photo of me ( I know, I know), but when has a stomach bug ever been kind to a photo’s lens? For me, never. Saturday and Monday. What a difference two days make!

The beautiful part is that I have an abundance of brilliantly, beautiful photos to share that exemplify my earlier Africa affirmations. Friends invited me to the home of a gentle man and a gentleman named “Hussein” whose paths cross our own on a daily basis, both figuratively and literally. An invitation to one’s home and an opportunity to witness hospitality firsthand is an honor unparalled to many, and my barometer stems from special occasions stateside in America to the far reaching corners of the earth: shanty, mansion, subdivision, projects, modest abode. It doesn’t matter. A man’s castle is his home and is to be honored for those whom dwell and the visitor as well.

A taxi ride, one goat, three goats, a horse and carriage and a “bold mama” totin’ a suitcase on her head and a baby upon her back opened the door for all of the imagery to come that day. Only goodness followed, but no more goats.









These were the sights, smells, uncomfortable details of an African lifestyle that the Senegelese have grown accustomed to. It’s only foreign to us; their foreign is familiar. I loved seeing the women returning from their Saturday ongoings and chatting about as they traveled respective paths. In a juxtaposed scenic display, there were children whose Saturday plight quite differed from the bicycle riding, scooter races, and cul de sac games my grandchildren in Florida likely enjoyed several time-zones away. Nonetheless, they have each other, and if one picture tells one thousand words, this photo does not tell one million stories about their lives in totality. It is but one moment in time, sans judgment. Where there is dirt, there is destiny, and in the midst of plight, there is power and positivity.

As our walk progressed through winding streets and corridors of homes, I saw the ocean’s mouth ahead of us and was immediately “mouth agape” based upon my own waterfront living comparative to Florida’s Ponte Vedra Beach and Amellia Island.

The Atlantic Ocean’s price tag is a realtor’s dream and a coveted luxury choice to all whom can afford it. In this urban representation, the ocean is home. Waves are their backyard. Sand is the foundation of their castle. The breeze is a soft whistle from Jesus.

Hussein’s home was modern in every facet and quickly conjured a reminiscence of my grandmother’s East 28th street home filled with fancy upholstery sustained by decades, lace doilies situated just so, bric-a-brac hither and there, and a wall filled with photographs and photographs, and photographs that offered homage to uncles of household fame and aunts of distinction. Everyone had a place on the wall, children too, of course. They owned multiple televisions and every young person in residence was manipulating a smart phone!


We were fed in a community sense, and prior to, watched a “Sade” concert featuring the legendary sultress herself, portions of a futbol match, a series of Senegelese soulful videos, and talked amongst ourselves to Hussein with intermittent visits from his family. “Theiboudienne” the traditional Senegelese meal of rice and fish was our full entree and while I’d had it twice the week prior at Chez Fatou and a local eatery, nothing is like homecooked “Theiboudienne.” I could eat it every day.


Allow me to note that the family ate separate from us, as is custom. As guests, we were given our own community bowl. Following a cold drink and hot tea, we traveled a different route back to the main road that revealed the advanced grasp of urban renewal that Senegal has upheld. More than signs of wonder, there were bulldozers of proof with renderings of work in action instead of mere motives rooted in political deed.  I’ve seen the latter in action and it is a detriment to the people. It’s happening. In and around Senegal and within the confines of Hussein’s own neighborhood, the streets are improving, the housing is soon to reflect infrastructure that is affordable and accessible to all who fall prey to the statistics below which simply got the best of my journalistic pulse. I can’t help myself:

“With almost half of its population living in urban areas, Senegal is ahead of Sub-Saharan Africa’s average urbanization rate of 40%. Senegal’s urban population has almost doubled in the last few decades, rising from 23% in 1960 to 43% in 2013, and is projected to reach 60% by 2030.”  www.blogs/worldbank.org

And this from www.housingfinanceafrica.org 

“…Despite such positive outlook, housing affordability remains limited, given the high price of land, high cost of finance, price speculation and inadequate supply. Speculation becomes very high, especially in Dakar where rent can go up to US$ 2 800. This remains highly unaffordable for a vast majority of the population since about 60 percent of them earn less than US$ 3.10 a day.

However, the situation is changing due to the country’s urbanisation planning, infrastructure programme, various housing projects, and the government social housing programme which set the price of the cheapest house at US$22 598, requiring monthly payments of CFA 88 627 (US$154) for 15 years. Recently the government has initiated other measures to increase housing production, including a Social Housing Guidelines Act, the decree defining social housing, and the Prime Minister’s order establishing approval processes for production by private developers…”

I love growth: in people, in God, in community, in urban development. While Saturday’s experience was about dinner in a home, it fostered an opportunity to both see and appreciate the many sectors of Senegal. Regardless of the urban view, she is beautiful.

Penny Dickerson 2019


Mercy Ships: navigating ship life.

When one lives onboard a ship, a private moment is coveted, extra sleep is supreme, and the mode of quiet is overrated…at least in my opine.

ShipCan you imagine how vastly different the Mercy Ships mission of hope and healing would be if God gave Mercy Ships founder, Don Stephens, a vision to use hospital ships to transform lives and serve nations in West Africa one at a time, but the crew stayed in condos on the beach? Would our sensibility to remain focused, energetic, and ethically carry-out our jobs be compromised?

As much as I am challenged by the humility and flexibility ship life forces upon me, the end result is that it keeps everyone aligned with the mission: “We follow the 2000-year-old model of Jesus, bringing hope and healing to the forgotten poor.” So, now is a good time to bring Jesus into the equation.

cross culturePart of the global allure of serving onboard the Africa Mercy is being part of a community that celebrates unique cultures, and often sub-cultures within those cultures. There are linguistic meetings of the mind around every corner, and each crew member is admirably talented and purposed to serve in their assigned capacity. We are a “God-picked community of good folks.” 

Onboard, we need Jesus in every language and in every culture. If God is not the author of confusion and God owns the cattle on 1,000 hills, then how much more could he give us to sustain ourselves onboard a ship? The problem is not knowing he can give us more, but embracing the challenge to be content no matter your circumstances  (tough one, that one).be content

I have to often remind myself of the power of God, the redemption of Jesus, the Mercy Ships mission, and my purpose therein. I have to constantly remind myself of the fabulous mercy ships website I perused late at night (after night, after night) reading about “ship life” and all the exciting nuances that would come with living in a community of people, some of whom you will be spiritually like-minded and others, you will not. But God is no respecter of persons, so neither do I have a right to be. Right? Onboard the Africa Mercy, we were each “God-picked” for this Senegal season of mission, and yes, some mania too. But it’s okay. Really it is. 

But “man oh, man oh, man oh, man.”

Sometimes, that Jesus thing is hard. Some days, the symbolic “Cross” just can’t overcome there not being a few more cups of java when you need it NOW to make it through your next meeting, and sometimes, every assuring Psalm and New Testament zinger falls short when I am missing home, my daughter’s smile, my mama’s soul food, and my friends. My two older sisters will be peeved if I don’t include them, so: I miss my sisters too (Whew)!homesick

This was a necessary release to circle the block and zoom in on my own behavior. It has allowed me to remind myself that as we have increased the activity of screening patients on the dock, remind yourself of the mission, Penny. Remember your purpose, Penny. Keep your mind on Jesus, Penny.

As hard as it may be (sometimes) ship life onboard the Africa Mercy is far more comfortable and blessed than the impoverished life of those we are serving in Senegal and with that, I’m going to retreat to my own and meditate on those delicate things in life that ship-life sustain me.

Penny Dickerson 2019

Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships.

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Mercy Ships: The Gangway Descend

The relevance of ships in the context of race is not a subject I am ignorant of or prone to avoid. Yet, I have withheld the pen. Yes, I am on a ship, in Africa, and I endured a brief sea-sail to arrive that was a full insult to the dreadful length of the middle-passage. My people, big ships, the sea, conflict, pain, and lack of reparations are as culturally poignant as the Mayflower and pilgrims are to the European holiday-custom that was manufactured to honor thanks.

Today, September 2, 2019, Mercy Ships Africa Mercy welcomed our first patients to the dock for screening. Gone are the long lines of marketing promotion past. Today was dignified. A respectable number of hopefuls huddled together in the name of hope, and they each seemed to harbor a lifetime need for healing. It was culminating, for me. It was surreal, for me. For them, it was a pivotal day of reckoning and an invisible gamble to win an imagined golden ticket or perhaps the strong possibility of leaving empty-handed in the same pool of regret fashioned by an overcast morning wrought with symbolic rain. Continue Reading »


Mercy Ships Senegal Arrival: “Penny’s Perspective.”


As often as we come, we arrive.

The latter is no known, recorded proverb, but it seems appropriate for my inspiration to finally chronicle the Mercy Ships Africa Mercy arrival ceremony in Senegal on August 14, 2019. The Africa Mercy crew is still hyped, so this is the arrival that keeps on giving!

Many of my supporters, friends, and family are not social media aficionados, so my numerous Facebook and LinkedIn posts have escaped their indulgence. This experience could not have been made possible without them, so it is appropriate, albeit one week late, that I invite them to enjoy the celebratory arrival ceremony from Penny’s Perspective.

More honest, there’s a second reason for the pursuit that reveals my inability to just walk away from a work day: I am being held hostage in a cabin by two crutches and a busted up foot! Wouldn’t you blog?penny on crutches

Following a meeting onboard the Africa Mercy with the communications team,  vice-president of global branding Jitze Kramer, global strategist Meg Newell, and global brand campaign director Ruben Plomp, I simply cannot stop thinking about SEO and a writer’s prescribed word count. To challenge myself, this composition is a test. If it fails, at least its at the expense of my own content!  Continue Reading »


Penny-fly: growth beyond measure

Somewhere on this planet there is a baby photo of me exemplary of what my adult persona would one day become. It is dated and worn, yellowed from too many days relaxed under traveling suns, and each corner is peeled upward to form tiny flags comparative to red flags in life I should have never ignored.

This photo is likely boxed with many other polaroids archived by my mother (or oldest sister), that boast my six-year-old, front tooth gap; the teenaged skinny limbs; the early 30’s slim waistline that hasn’t made an appearance since 1998; and of course a multitude of high school memories that perpetually remind me that being in a marching band saved my life. That singular photo image serves as an apt precursor to how “wide-eyed of a woman” I was destined to become and the many facets of life I would endure, all of which ultimately bourgeoned into a journey that screams resilience, embraces trials, and celebrates triumph with a jubilant smile and robust laugh. That baby photo – where ever it is – most likely serves as the infancy stage of the formation of Penny who is also Merdis who is also, “Penny-fly.” Continue Reading »


Mercy Ships: Behold! The African Market.

Today I set foot upon African soil for the first time since our Wednesday arrival. SENEGAL, from the port where Mercy Ships is docked, suffers tremendous aesthetic appeal. To exit the port, I trekked through an asphalt jungle and concrete conclave of urban blight that sent two messages: you are definitely not in Kansas anymore, and no, this not the Lion King set. There were no gazelle’s leaping mid-air with grace, nor was there the thundering beat of a djembe that beckoned a funky body bounce. There was no Simba, no Nala, but I did see a forlorn AFRIcat. Continue Reading »

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