Life on the Mercy Ships
Asby WI’s September meeting was quite different from the previous month’s day out.
Guest speaker Judy Polkinhorn had been the Chief Executive UK of the charity ‘Mercy Ships’ for 14 years. She explained that the charity has at present just one ship, the Africa Mercy, which is the largest charity hospital ship in private hands. Another ship is currently being fitted out in China. The Africa Mercy was converted from a Danish train ferry into a hospital ship containing six operating theatres all with state-of-the-art equipment. She also has on board several Land Rovers which go to outreach clinics ashore and also ferry patients to and from the port.
The Africa Mercy usually works along the West African coast but during the recent ebola epidemic she relocated to Madagascar.
Much of the health care carried out by the crew relates to cataract and dental treatment (for which latter there is a drop-in clinic), facio-maxillary operations, repairing hare lips and cleft palates. These are followed up with essential speech therapy.
Part of the ship’s crew, all of whom are volunteers (including the captain, cooks, engineers, as well as the medical professionals), help to build clinics in co-operation with local governments using their money, train local medical staff, and also give agricultural training that enables villages to become self-sufficient. Worldwide an amazing £20 million a year is needed to keep the ship going: £5.5 million of which is raised in the UK.
Susan Renshaw thanked Judy for her eye-opening talk and with Helen Horn served refreshments. Susan was also the evening’s raffle winner.
The competition for a nautical memento was won by Pat Bevan, second Maggie Johnson.