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?
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!
The Mercy Ships Africa Mercy arrival ceremony was a dignified and exceptionally well-planned ceremony. As a matter of fact, it was a red carpet affair with the stately presence of the Africa Mercy docked in the background as scores of Senegelese citizens and dignitaries filed in wearing their finest in cultural attire: fabrics of silk, women adorned in head wraps, and the grandest of men showed off wardrobe flare in “Bou Bous.”
I loved that the sights and sounds of Senegelese culture seamlessly merged to create an ambiance that said, “THIS is our culture, the beating of drums, ensemble dance and spirited songs of glee.” The next best thing to being there, was actually being there, so I snagged a snippet of the ceremonial arrival musicale.
A blitz of local media lined the dock in preparation to both see and hear the welcoming words of their country’s leaders as well as key representatives of Mercy Ships, namely: Donovan Palmer, Mercy Ships Chief Executive Officer. On program, was also Senegal’s Minister of Health and an anticipated speech by the first lady. Ultimately, her heartfelt words were delivered by a representative, but her presence was resonant as a cadre of Senegelese youth chanted her name with pride.
I dedicated a portion of my evening to darting eyes from the gangway, the red carpet, and scoping arriving motor vehicles while repeatedly asking, “Is that her? Is THAT the first lady of Senegal?” Well, none of the photos above are the “Prestigious She,” but she was indeed photographed by Mercy Ships Africa Mercy photographers leaving the gangway with our Managing Director, Warrie Blackburn, following a tour and the traditional signing of the Africa Mercy welcome book. How exciting is that? Exciting indeed!
Another surprising factor for me was how well attended the ceremony was. It appeared the audience traffic continued. Beneath a covered, massive white tent were tiered bleachers hosting regal chairs, some with gold-trimming and red upholstery, while others were just simply chairs.
There were gift bags filled with fresh water and tropical juice to combat heat and quench thirst, and additionally, there was a professionally bound program book featuring a tribute page of none other than Mercy Ships founder, Don Stephens.
The entire affair was remarkable as this was my first trip to Africa and moreover, I didn’t know what to expect of the nation’s people whose reputation for being impoverished precedes them. I was mega-impressed with the attention to detail and preparation, the fanfare, the military presence and droves of people walking down from the port and into the gated Africa Mercy. From the lighting to the cleanliness and beautifully groomed hostesses donning white with just a hint of kente fabrique color, Senegal presented themselves proud in the capital city of Dakar.
Admittedly, I am a sucker for all things red carpet, so from my vantage point, it was the Oscars in the tradition of outdoor-Africa! Don’t you just love a velvet rope barrier? As a member of the media who has been forced to respect many a boundary of the same, I full well understand that they are a necessary aesthetic appeal, but no professional media person I know professes an abiding love. “I want to respect and obey the perimeter.” Said no journalist or videographer ever!
The Mercy Ships management team were seated front-row and center representing our organization’s brand and mission along with the commanding presence of a jumbo-tron screen that showcased the “Hope and Healing” of the Mercy Ships mission with the inclusion of Dr. Gary Parker complemented by vignettes of patient stories.
Pictured is Mark Druesne, Mercy Ships Africa Mercy communications director and Jitze Kramer, Mercy Ships vice-president of global branding. Collectively, they are the “Thing 1 and Thing 2” of the new Mercy Ships era of brand marketing. They were a proud duo who stayed “red-carpet-busy” and translated with expertise, or Jitze just chatted about with the press!
And what would a celebration be without the inclusion of pop culture in the tradition of a Senegelese trio who performed an uplifting and lively entertainment segment? In a comparative stretch, they were West Africa’s answer to America’s iconic rap group, “RUN D.M.C.” or perhaps they were just themselves: confident, lyrical, and full of life!
While the Mercy Ships Africa Mercy crew were not on ground level, they served as a captive audience from deck seven where they were encouraged to spectate under one condition as mandated by the captain: “You must dress as though you were in full attendance.” And from high above, looking down with positive posture representative of every volunteer who seeks to serve, the Africa Mercy crew – the most important audience members who are integral to the mission – applauded with support as Senegal welcomed us into, “Le Port de Dakar.”
Check out these “Senegal Soundbites” from the Africa Mercy crew:
Penny Dickerson 2019 – all rights reserved