All aboard: Grandfather, 70, to travel over 1,500 miles by bus for Mercy Ships

Stephen Chitty holding a model of a bus standing in front of a bus stop

All aboard: Grandfather, 70, to travel over 1,500 miles by bus for Mercy Ships

A grandfather from Watford is planning on undertaking a tour of England entirely by public buses to help bring life-changing surgery to the world’s poorest nations.

Retired teacher Stephen Chitty is doing the 40-day national tour from next month using his free bus pass while raising money and awareness of Mercy Ships, who his daughter has volunteered with since 2013.

Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class healthcare services, including surgery and medical training, to strengthen and support countries in the developing world that need it most.

His daughter Lizzie Chitty, a nurse who works at Nottingham University Hospital travelled to Senegal, West Africa, in early May where she volunteered for the seventh time on one of the charity’s hospital ships. She has previously volunteered in Guinea, Cameroon, Madagascar, Republic of Congo and Benin.

Stephen said: “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 will be amongst 50 crew members from Britain and Ireland who will serve in Senegal over the next five months, 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.

Stephen’s journey will see him start and finish from Watford Junction Railway Station bus stop travelling east through London to Dartford, then following a clockwise tour of England via Kent and the south. He is busy studying timetables in order to link up the journeys and plans to also raise money for charity CAP (Christians Against Poverty). The route is around 1,650 miles.

He added: “I would love it if people were able to sponsor me but I would also really appreciate people along the route offering me accommodation for the night.”

Lizzie 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.”

Stephen plans to set off on his national tour on Monday 26th June.

To sponsor Stephen visit his JustGiving page.