Over 21 million people in the UK volunteer at least once a year and this contributes an estimated £23.9bn to the UK economy. These 21 million people are a shining example of the difference volunteering can make. Volunteers Week aims to inspire people and showcase the range of volunteering opportunities available.
The Africa Mercy delivers free healthcare to countries where the services of professional medical staff are most needed. The ship is currently docked in Madagascar, one of the world’s poorest countries with only 2 physicians and 3 hospital beds available for every 10,000 people.
Mercy Ships depends entirely on volunteers to continue their work; they offer a second chance to many who thought there was none. The charity’s volunteers come from all walks of life but share the same common interest in their quest to improve the lives of others. Ranging from cooks to surgeons to engineers to dentists, each individual volunteer is vital to the running of Mercy Ships.
Ali Herbert (56) from Gloucester, has volunteered with Mercy Ships an impressive 17 times as a registered nurse working as an anaesthetic assistant. Reflecting on the time she has spent volunteering she said: “Mercy Ships is remarkable in the way that the volunteers also train local healthcare workers and therefore the work of the charity serves not only the present needs, but also the future needs of a country - what a legacy to be able to leave behind!
“When you are on the ship you have got to think outside the box quite a bit and that’s definitely an invaluable skill I have developed from volunteering with Mercy Ships. I particularly enjoy working in the operating room where the fistula surgery is carried out – these poor women have been through so much, but to share their joy after surgery is so humbling and rewarding. I’d encourage anyone to consider volunteering, for me it’s been a life changing experience.”
Judy Polkinhorn, Executive Director of Mercy Ships UK, said: “The volunteers at Mercy Ships are vital to the charity’s mission; the work they do is life changing, not only to patients but to the volunteers themselves. Through challenging conditions volunteers find their skills dramatically developed and experience rewarding and inspiring changes to their personal lives in helping others.
“To be a volunteer you have to be courageous, brave, committed and passionate and these are qualities that are so deeply admired in our volunteers who selflessly give up their time to help carry out the lifesaving work on board. We are grateful to our volunteers everyday but to have a week specifically dedicated to volunteers is very special and something that we want to be a part of.”