This story is reprinted from The Fresno State Alumni Association as written by Elisa Navarro. Originally published in the September 2017 issue of the Fresno State Alumni Association Newsletter.

“I knew since I was a teenager that I wanted to travel and try to make a positive difference; particularly for the poor,” said Melanie Trujillo, a 2004 School of Nursing alumna.

Trujillo has been a registered nurse at Valley Children’s Hospital for 12 and a half years. Her passion to help people runs deep, and she has not only made a difference at the hospital but also as a volunteer on the Mercy Ship.


The Mercy Ship is a nonprofit hospital-ship that works in Africa, providing free surgeries and many other services for the poor. Trujillo was a war nurse, taking care of adults and children who affected by civil wars. It was a very rewarding job, but often hard physically, mentally and emotionally.

“I took care of children who had many war wounds. Like bullets lodged in their bodies during war and that had been stuck inside them all their lives, causing pain and infection,” Trujillo said. “Some were thrown in bonfires for entertainment by the rebel soldiers. Some had acid thrown on them and their faces and bodies melted into massive disfiguring scars.”

“These do not include the emotional damage these people carry with them forever — I took care of children and babies who were hidden in tents all their lives because their appearance was deformed. Such deformities like cleft lip or crooked eyes were seen as demonic by many villagers and if seen, these children would be thrown in the river to die.”

“I took care of patients with huge tumors larger than their heads. Many of these tumors were growing out of their mouths and choking them off. I had a child with that, and his grew so fast it was suffocating him. He, too, would pass away any day and the ship could do nothing to help him because it was the kind that would grow back and do the same thing again. He needed a type of chemo that was not available on that side of Africa. It was tragic. I will never forget seeing the terror and panic in his eyes.”


Mercy Ships provide AIDS education, hospice care (visiting dying patients), visiting orphanages and AIDS homes, building schools, wells, latrines and health clinics for the poor, peace/conflict resolution/counseling for victims of violence from civil wars and much else. All performed by volunteers on the ship, like Trujillo.

“I find that the more I travel, the more I appreciate my own country. We have it very good and until you see how desperately poor many other places are, you don’t know how you have it in a first-world country like ours.”


View the original alumni association story at the LINK.

All photos courtesy of Melanie Trujillo and the Fresno State Alumni Association.