Mellissa L.K. Coly, R.N. (NHS’09)
Co-Founder, Fisherman Global Ministries

Mellissa Coly has a passion for helping underserved communities around the world through missionary work. For her, this deeply personal undertaking goes hand-in-hand with the Georgetown mission to be “women and men for others.”

Her journey began in 2008, while she was a student in Georgetown’s School of Nursing & Health Studies. Coly traveled to Senegal during the winter break to visit family there that she had never met.

“I didn't know the language or anything; I just hopped on an airplane and left,” she explained. Coly had refrained from telling people that she was a nurse prior to the trip, preferring to use the time away as a break from the challenges of nursing life. Yet, once word got out that she was studying medicine, people flocked to her. What began as a winter break vacation turned into her first mission trip.

Senegal, West Africa
Senegal, West Africa. Photo submitted by Mellissa Coly
Managua, Nicaragua
Managua, Nicaragua. Photo submitted by Mellissa Coly
Senegal, West Africa
Senegal, West Africa. Photo by Mellissa Coly

“I learned how to be flexible and I learned that the language of love truly is universal. [Going there] was the best decision I ever made,” said Coly.

Since then, Coly has completed multiple mission trips to Jamaica, Nicaragua and West Africa. “I think you stop counting after 10,” she said, laughing. “At that point your whole life becomes a mission.”

Last year, after Typhoon Yolanda devastated the Philippines, Coly traveled there with others to provide what she called “basic grassroots healthcare.” Being able to provide both medical and spiritual aid to even a small group of the estimated 6 million children affected by the typhoon helped Coly realize that this work was her life’s calling.

She decided to get organized in her missionary work. Currently, she is putting together a company with other young missionaries that will help fund these trips. Volunteers usually have to raise funds for each trip, but the group hopes that this new company will help provide resources to deliver both medical and spiritual support to those in need.

The effort is called Fisherman Global Ministries, and Coly and her co-founders are in the process of applying for non-governmental organization status. “The name is based on the Bible verse Matthew 4:19-20,” said Coly: “Jesus called out to them, ‘Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!’ And they left their nets at once and followed him.”

The first project for Fisherman Global Ministries will take place this spring as the group heads to Palo, a town in the Leyte province of the Philippines, to help build an orphanage for local Filipino children who lost their parents in Typhoon Yolanda. In addition, Coly and her associates will use their skills to help with a medical mission established there last year.

Coly connects with the people she aids on a personal level as well. Recently, she decided to shave her head in solidarity with the impoverished young ones that she has met during her mission trips.

“In many locations, they keep kids’ hair short to decrease incidences of lice and ringworm,” she explained. “You also have to consider that in most households soap is used for washing and cleaning dishes—if they have them—clothes and washing hair and body. Not having hair keeps cost down as well, but I think it's absolutely beautiful.” 

Since graduating from NHS in 2009, Coly has practiced nursing in locations across the country as a travel nurse. She now works as a trauma/ICU nurse and also as an ER nurse at Prince George’s Hospital Center, the same hospital where she completed her senior practicum as a Georgetown student.

She has not only remained in contact with her Georgetown professors, they have aided her mission work and provided emotional support when Coly lost her father recently. “My professors are actually extremely supportive,” she said . “At Georgetown, it's definitely a family. My old professors would do anything they could to support me, including donating to mission trips by purchasing T-shirts.”

At Georgetown students are challenged to engage the world in the service of others. Coly is an alumna who has combined that concept with her nursing skills and entrepreneurial spirit to make a positive impact on the global community.