27 Sep HRH The Princess Royal, Patron of Mercy Ships International, at launch of fund to support more volunteers in life-changing work in Africa
HRH The Princess Royal attended the Mercy Ships 45th anniversary dinner last night where she celebrated the role of volunteers in delivering the life changing work on our two hospital ships.
The dinner was to launch a new Volunteer Support Fund, to enable more volunteers from developing nations to consider being involved in the life-saving work of bringing surgical care to those who need it most.
The Princess Royal, who became the Patron of Mercy Ships International in 2020, is a long-term supporter of the charity.
Last night, HRH The Princess Royal celebrated the work of the many volunteers who have played a vital role in enabling Mercy Ships to change lives over the past 45 years and the opportunity the new fund will bring. She spoke of how it would remove the barriers for a new generation of volunteers, those from developing nations and anywhere in the world, giving the opportunity to learn alongside international colleagues and bring those skills back to their own countries.
HRH The Princess Royal spoke at the dinner about how the fund would remove barriers for a new generation of volunteers
Each year, more than 3,000 volunteers from over 60 countries serve on board the world’s two largest civilian hospital ships, the Africa Mercy and the Global Mercy. Professionals such as surgeons, dentists, nurses, health trainers, cooks, and engineers dedicate their time and skills to accelerate access to safe surgical, obstetric, and anaesthetic care.
It is hoped the fund will remove the financial burden and make the opportunity to volunteer more accessible to those from developing nations who have the desire to use their expertise and skills for Mercy Ships.
Many volunteers from the UK and around the world will be volunteering onboard the Global Mercy, which has now docked in Freetown, Sierra Leone for the next 10 months. These include nurses, surgeons, teachers, physical therapists, radiologists, anaesthetists, admin staff, and even a captain of the ship.
Mrs Rachel Buckingham, Consultant Paediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon at the Oxford University Trust, also spoke at the anniversary dinner. She explained why she gives up her annual leave to volunteer on board and what a privilege and joy it is for her to see the lasting legacy left to both patients and in-country professionals she mentors and trains.
Mercy Ships UK CEO Joanne Balaam said:
“We are delighted that our patron HRH The Princess Royal was here to celebrate our 45th anniversary and while we launch our Volunteer Support Fund. Her Royal Highness’ continuing support and recognition of all our volunteers’ efforts is more important than ever as we need more than 3,000 a year to volunteer on our two-ship fleet.
“There are so many open-hearted professionals who would love to give their time and effort to serve with Mercy Ships and transform lives but sacrificing their income to do so can prove impossible for many volunteers, especially those from developing nations. Although many have the support of family, friends, communities and churches to do so, not everyone can access the same support network.
“We hope this will make a transformational difference to our patients and the legacy of Mercy Ships in sub-Saharan Africa.”
Mercy Ships was started in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens. Since then, we have worked in more than 55 countries, helped more than 1.2 million people see their lives changed and performed more than 110,000 life-changing surgeries.
HRH The Princess Royal is a longstanding supporter of Mercy Ships. In 2011, she visited the Africa Mercy hospital ship in Sierra Leone. Last year, she visited Mercy Ships’ newest ship, the Global Mercy, in Rotterdam before it sailed to Senegal.
[Lead image of HRH The Princess Royal speaking to Dr Rachel Buckingham, who performed the first surgery onboard the Global Mercy and Fiona Thomson, widow of long-time volunteer Dr Keith Thomson]