Grandfather, 70, completes epic 1,650-mile national bus tour for Mercy Ships

Stephen Chitty on a bus

Grandfather, 70, completes epic 1,650-mile national bus tour for Mercy Ships

Our supporters go to incredible lengths to bring life-changing surgery to those who need it most. Whether volunteering onboard our hospital ships, offering training in countries we serve or speaking to groups and organisations across the country – they pull out all the stops. One stalwart supporter, Stephen Chitty, 70, took fundraising to a whole new level as he circumnavigated England by bus to raise money and awareness for Mercy Ships.

Adventurous grandfather Stephen Chitty from Watford has completed his 40-day challenge to travel the length and breadth of England entirely by public buses to fundraise for Mercy Ships.

The retired teacher had always wanted to put his free bus pass to the test, so he did so while supporting the charity his daughter has volunteered with since 2013.

Stephen Chitty at Peterborough Cathedral
Stephen Chitty in Frinton

During his epic journey, the 70-year-old travelled on 117 different buses over more than 1,650 miles and slept in 30 different beds. On his challenge, he wore Mercy Ships T-shirts and handed out leaflets about our work to the people he met and raised more than £3,200 and counting.

His story captured the imagination of the British public with the national press and broadcast news covering his story, with him being interviewed on both radio and television. His story made headlines internationally too, with him making papers in Greece, India, Cameroon and Turkey, among others.

Stephen Chitty being interviewed on BBC London News
Stephen Chitty being interviewed on BBC London News

Father-of-three Stephen said:

“I was amazed by the kindness and generosity of the people I met. Travelling on your own for 40 days can be quite lonely but it was a true bonus to meet so many lovely people and go to so many places I have not been before. So many people spoke to me and asked me about Mercy Ships when they saw my T-shirt.”

He has been overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers on his journey with people offering him a bed for the night, hot meals and even an AirBnB in Dover letting him stay for free.

His daughter Lizzie Chitty, a nurse who works at Nottingham University Hospital, volunteered for the seventh time on one of our hospital ships this May in Senegal, West Africa. She has previously volunteered for Mercy Ships in Guinea, Cameroon, Madagascar, Republic of Congo and Benin.

On his return, friends and supporters came to greet him at Watford, where he started his journey on Monday 26th June before travelling around the country. He was also raising money for charity CAP (Christians Against Poverty).

He added:

“I really appreciate all those who have been sponsoring me and giving me a bed for the night and also for all the support I received, including all those who prayed for me on my journey.”

Stephen said he knew how crucial the work of Mercy Ships is from what his daughter has told him of her experiences while volunteering.

Lizzie was one of 50 British and Irish crew members who volunteered with a global crew in Senegal.

She said:

“My dad wanted to do something special to mark his 70th birthday with each of his three children. He came with me to see the Global Mercy when it was in Rotterdam before it headed to Senegal to treat patients and he was amazed. He really wanted to do something meaningful to support Mercy Ships.

“I am so proud to see him follow his dream of seeing more of the country, however challenging it was to complete the journey. He calls me his inspiration for doing this trip but I couldn’t have volunteered with Mercy Ships without his and my mum’s support, so it works both ways!”

Our newest hospital ship, the Global Mercy, will shortly be stationed in Sierra Leone to bring more life-transforming surgery and training.

Lizzie added:

“I have been overwhelmed by the response from former crew mates and friends who have seen the articles about my dad’s trip. After seven trips to the ship, I know what a difference these donations will make to bringing hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.”

CEO of Mercy Ships UK, Joanne Balaam said:

“The effort Stephen went to for Mercy Ships is incredible. We are so grateful to him for his phenomenal challenge which saw him make headlines around the world and highlight the work of Mercy Ships and its life changing work, whilst also raising money to continue to help those we serve. Thank you so much Stephen!”

To sponsor Stephen, visit his JustGiving page.