Wednesday, 8 October 2014


“Here are the values that I stand for: Honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values.” - Ellen DeGeneres

I recently became aware of a fantastic initiative that promotes health and well-being in some of the most needy and disadvantaged populations in the world. It is the Mercy Ships, which is an international charity that was founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens. Mercy Ships currently operates the largest non-governmental hospital ship in the world, providing free health care, community development projects, community health education, mental health programs, agriculture projects, and palliative care for terminally ill patients. Mercy Ships has operated in more than 70 developing nations around the world, with a current focus on the countries of West Africa.

The organisation has its International Operations Center (IOC) in Garden Valley, Texas. Mercy Ships also has 16 national resource offices in countries that include Spain, Britain, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, South Africa, and Australia. A major inspiration for Mercy Ships founder and President Don Stephens was the work of the international hospital ship SS Hope. Stephens’ research showed that 95 of the 100 largest cities in the world were port cities. Therefore, a hospital ship could deliver healthcare very efficiently to large numbers of people. The birth of Stephens’ profoundly disabled son, John Paul, also inspired him to move forward with his vision of a floating hospital. A visit with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, India, further deepened his commitment to serving the world’s neediest people.

Mercy Ships currently has one vessel in service: the 16,500-ton flagship Africa Mercy, which measures almost 500 feet long. The Africa Mercy has greater capacity than all three previous Mercy Ships combined. The Africa Mercy is currently serving in the port of Pointe Noire, Congo, where its field service will last from August 2013 to May 2014. The ship was previously docked in Conakry, Guinea from August 2012 till May 2013. Before that it was docked in Lomé, Togo, for the first months of its 2012 Field Service. The Africa Mercy docked in Freetown, Sierra Leone for its 2011 field service, which lasted for 10 months. At the conclusion of each field service, the Africa Mercy goes into dry dock, where it is resupplied and receives any needed repairs or upgrades before heading to its next port of call.

Early in 2010, the ship was docked in Lomé, Togo for the 2010 field service. In August 2010, the Africa Mercy went into shipyard in South Africa, where it was equipped with new, more efficient generators. In 2009, the ship was docked in Cotonou, Benin from February to December, providing free surgeries and medical care. Mercy Ships also worked with Beninese citizens on agriculture and water development projects on the ground in Benin. In 2007, the ship made its official maiden voyage to Monrovia, Liberia, from the shipyard in England.

In 2008, the Africa Mercy continued its service to Liberia, offering free surgeries, assistance in healthcare infrastructure development, and community-based preventive health care programs that benefited thousands of individuals and many communities. More than 1,200 surgical procedures and 10,000 dental procedures were completed, along with community health projects such as HIV/AIDS prevention and construction of wells and latrines. Before the Africa Mercy arrives in port, flyers are distributed to alert the public to the ship’s upcoming visit. An advance team begins a massive screening of thousands of prospective patients, to see which men, women and children qualify for a surgery. It is common for people to walk for days (and even from neighbouring countries) to find out whether they may be eligible for surgical treatment.

The video below shows the ship and describes some of the work carried out by the dedicated staff that sail within.

Please share this and if you can, donate and help to continue the good work that is carried out by these worthy people.