27 Jul Grandfather, 70, reaches halfway on 1,650-mile national bus tour for Mercy Ships
A grandfather from Watford, who is touring England entirely by public buses to help bring life-changing surgery to the world’s poorest nations, has reached the halfway point on his epic 1,650-mile journey.
Retired teacher Stephen Chitty started his 40-day national tour on Monday 26th June, using his free bus pass while raising money and awareness of Mercy Ships.
His daughter, Lizzie Chitty, is a nurse who works at Nottingham University Hospital. In early May she travelled to Senegal, where she volunteered on the Global Mercy, her seventh time volunteering on one of our hospital ships. She has previously volunteered in Guinea, Cameroon, Madagascar, Republic of Congo and Benin.
“I have been so encouraged on my route by people’s kindness. Everyone has been so encouraging and I have met so many people who have noticed my Mercy Ships T-shirt and asked me more or have volunteered themselves. It has been tiring but rewarding. Every day is different. The fact that there is a good prayer team behind me does help me keep going.
“I really appreciate all those who are sponsoring me and giving me a bed for the night.”
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. The trip is set to now take him longer than the 40 days planned, and there have had to be some route changes, but in miles he has hit more than 825 miles travelled by bus as he reached Liverpool.
“Through my daughter’s experiences with Mercy Ships, I know how important the charity is and how crucial its work is. In the past, Lizzie has been volunteering on the hospital ship the Africa Mercy. This May, she volunteered on the charity’s brand-new ship the Global Mercy for three weeks.
“I have always loved all forms of travel and have wanted to put my free pass to good use so this seemed like a good opportunity to do this for my 70th birthday.”
The world’s first purpose-built hospital training ship, the Global Mercy, has 641 live-in volunteer crew who live in cabins while they are on the ship. From correcting cleft lips and palates and congenital deformities, to removing tumours and restoring eyesight, it is estimated that more than 150,000 lives will be changed on board the Global Mercy through surgery alone, over the vessel’s 50-year expected lifespan.
Lizzie was among 50 crew members from Britain and Ireland who served in Senegal this year, including 14 other nurses and 15 doctors (from surgeons to anaesthetists). Other UK volunteer professionals onboard include teachers, engineers, an accountant, clerical and housekeeping staff. The ship is soon set to start treating patients in Sierra Leone.
Stephen’s journey started and will finish at Watford Junction Railway Station bus stop. He has travelled east through London to Dartford, then following a clockwise tour of England via Kent and the south. He is also raising money for charity CAP (Christians Against Poverty).
“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.”
To sponsor Stephen visit Stephen’s National Bus Tour for Mercy Ships JustGiving page.