Making one person smile can change the world. Maybe not the whole world, but their world.

Earlier this year Marie Sylvie (7) re-discovered her smile after visiting the Africa Mercy, a floating hospital run by Mercy Ships which sails to some of the poorest countries in the world.

When Marie Sylvie was 2 years old she fell into a pot of boiling water which left her with severe scarring and, as her wounds healed, her arm became stuck to her body. She could barely move it.

Marie Sylvie was embarrassed to go to parties, she couldn’t wear the same clothes as other little girls. When she initially visited Mercy Ships’ floating hospital she was shy and reserved, she found it difficult to smile.

Marie Sylvie’s mother, Felicie, was desperate for help. She told us, “The problem was always the money. Always the money. It would have been impossible for us to find the money to do surgery.”

Thanks to its hospital ship, Mercy Ships was able to make the impossible a reality by performing a free surgery to release her trapped arm. With a huge smile on her face, Marie Sylvie can now lift her arm about her head and behave like other girls her age.

Marie Sylvie is just one of thousands of patients whose lives have been utterly transformed during Mercy Ships’ 8 month outreach to Madagascar. Mercy Ships is dedicated to helping its patients smile through both large and small acts of kindness. The charity’s team of on-board volunteers know that a smile goes a long way to bring hope and healing to the patients they treat.

Judy Polkinhorn, Executive Director of Mercy Ships UK, said: “Mercy Ships is not just about providing free health care – it’s about improving the lives of the patients we treat and giving them a smile of hope for the future.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our hard working and dedicated volunteers whose acts of kindness relieve suffering and bring happiness to so many people. Over the years we have visited many countries in Africa, however the ship and its ethos, which resonates with World Smile Day, remains the same.  It is wonderful to see lives changed for the better after successful operations – may the tears of joy and the smiles continue.”

Mercy Ships is an international charity which delivers free healthcare services to those living in developing countries, namely in Africa, where the services of professional medical staff are most needed. The Africa Mercy has been converted from a Danish rail ferry to a state-of-the-art hospital ship, with six operating theatres, X-ray facilities and CT scanner, a pharmacy and a laboratory.

The hospital ship is currently docked in Madagascar, which is one of the world’s poorest countries with over 90% of its people living on less than 75p a day. As far as healthcare is concerned, with a population of 22.9 million, Madagascar has only 2 physicians and 3 hospital beds available for every 10,000 people.