Doctor’s at Sea

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During our time in Red Frog Marina in Panama, there was a big boat called the Pacific Hope. It was a massive boat at 177 feet long. After meeting some of the crew, I decided I wanted to learn more, so I sat down with the captain of Pacific Hope, Marvin Wilks. He had been a captain for 20 years of his life and he even circumnavigated the globe twice. He got involved captaining Pacific Hope because the previous captain fell sick. A friend called Marvin up to see if he could help. Marvin said yes. He jump on a plane and he flew from Florida to the base in New Zealand. He first intended on staying a week but he ended up staying 6 months. He is also on the Board of Directors.


So what is Pacific Hope part of and why did Marvin decide to help? Well it’s a volunteer Christian organization called Marine Reach and is dedicated to helping those in medical need. It was started in New Zealand by David and Linda Cowie about 33 years ago. As missionaries, David and Linda Cowie saw a need to help people in remote places. The ship offers dental, ophthalmology and medical services. Last year it spent $47 million and treated 500,000 people.

Marvin said,

“I like taking the skills that I have and the gift that I have and using them to help people. I mean if you think about it how can being a boat captain help people? All you do is drive people to pretty places and help them play and things like that but with this we’re taking a ship and you need somebody to drive the ship to where people are hurting and where people are hurt.”

Dental Lab


Marvin works three months on and three months off. Marvin told me about his most memorable patient. “Her name was Fina. She was about eight years old when I met her. We were about 90 miles away on the ship and we heard a little girl was dying on an island. I got in touch with some people that knew what was going on. I asked the crew, we were a long ways up and we where working with another island, and I asked the crew, do you all want to make a run tonight and go get this little girl? And the whole crew said yes so we took off in the middle of the night. We ran all night long. We anchored off and we got there and it took me about a half hour to get into where she was, way deep in the mountains, and when I got there her leg was split open in two places ’cause it was swelled up so much that it was splitting the skin open. We got her on the ship. She stayed with us for about two months getting the swelling to go down. But the surgery she needed was way too complicated to do it there so with the help of rotary, we raised enough money to send her to children’s Hospital in New Zealand and she’s alive today because of the ship.”

The Pacific Hope left the marina in early February to go to Columbia, South Caribbean Islands and Dominica. There were 22 people on board when she left but when they’re working with patients there can be up to 60 people on board, all volunteers. That means 180 meals per day, cooked by three people in the galley and 2 on dishes. They are funded by a large donor base as it costs $300,000 to run the ship each year.

Crew Cabin


I really enjoyed speaking with Marvin and I hope this organization can help thousands more people all around the Caribbean. My name is Cameron Cross and that is Pacific Hope.

Cameron out.

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