Mercy Ships Launching the Africa Mercy
Ed. Note: Mercy Ships was birthed in YWAM and though it is a separate ministry now, relationships between the two ministries continue. Many YWAM staff have served on board the M/V Anastasis and M/V Caribbean, the two vessels that will be retired soon.
Garden Valley, Texas February 23, 2006 -- The international board of Mercy Ships confirmed that two of the global charity's veteran hospital ships will be retired 2006 as the newest Mercy Ship, the Africa Mercy, enters active service.
Following completion of her 274th port assignment (in Monrovia, Liberia) the Mercy Ship Anastasis will sail to Ghana by the end of the year to connect with the Africa Mercy and transfer expertise, crew and equipment.
A special handover ceremony between the two vessels will be in Tema, Ghana. Honoring crew from the vessel's 28 years of service as a hospital ship serving the forgotten poor through life-changing surgeries, health care and development will be the priority of this "passing the torch" ceremony.
The former 1950's Italian passenger liner was pioneered as a hospital ship to serve the nations in the late 1970's by the Christian charity. The Africa Mercy will claim the title of the world's largest non-governmental hospital ship after the two ships transition in West Africa.
Until then, the 11,701 ton Anastasis is still home to nearly 400 volunteer crew from 40 nations, some of whom have served onboard for more than 15 years, thanks to a network of support from individuals, churches, foundations, grants and corporate gifts-in-kind from around the world. Tens of thousands of volunteers have brought the message of hope and healing to the developing nations served during the flagship's second career as a hospital vessel.
Having finished her tour of duty this winter serving as a base of operations for Mercy Ships hurricane relief efforts on the US Gulf Coast, the Caribbean Mercy will be retired as well. The 265 ft ship is currently docked near the port of Mobile, Alabama until she can be sold. Acquired in 1994, the Caribbean Mercy called into 138 ports primarily throughout the Caribbean and Central American region, serving as an eye hospital and offering dental, orthopaedic and healthcare services off ship. Her ice-strengthened hull also enabled the former Norwegian coastal ferry to go as far afield as the Russian Straits and Asia for relief work.
According to Mercy Ships Founder/President Don Stephens, the charity has made good use of former cruise liners as converted hospital ships but the purpose-built hospital on the Africa Mercy will allow greater numbers of the world's forgotten poor to receive medical care. Best practices from both ships were used as a base line in designing the hospital, public areas and crew accommodations on the new ship. Crew from the soon-to-be-retired ships have been invited to consider service on the Africa Mercy or elsewhere within the organization's field locations and 16 national offices.
"We are still taking inventory on each ship, but the medical equipment and supplies from the Anastasis that will be used by the Africa Mercy are worth well over 1 million USD," stated Jim Paterson, VP International Operations who is overseeing the two older ship's final arrangements. "The sale of both ships has not yet been finalized--our broker is considering all options to ensure the highest bid price," he said.
The Africa Mercy is due to be commissioned in Newcastle, UK in April, and is expected to double the number of direct medical beneficiaries currently served by the two ships. In addition, reduction of operational costs and technical crew, as well as age and construction of the older vessels were key components behind the strategic decision to retire the other two ships at this time according to Stephens.
Built in 1980, the former Danish rail ferry is currently undergoing the final stages of a 62 million USD purpose-designed conversion that includes state-of-the-art hospital facilities. From this newest hospital ship, Mercy Ships expects to continue to strategically partner with nations on the African continent through programs designed to promote sustainable development.
UK businesswoman Ann Gloag's Balcraig Foundation provided the lead grant of $6.5 million USD to purchase the ship. The Oak Foundation provided a $10 million USD matching grant for motivation of additional sponsors for the refit. Sir John Major and Dame Norma, patrons of the Africa Mercy Project have also lent their influence to launch the new ship. Chairman and CEO of JC Penney and Chair of Mercy Ships International Board, Myron "Mike" Ullman said "Mercy Ships makes eminent business sense. Volunteer professionals from around the world live in the safe environment of a ship while providing training of local doctors and surgeries unavailable through other means."
The charity has been commended by leaders of developing nations whose people they have served. Most recent endorsements by Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu underscored a desire for continued partnership on the African continent.
Only two days before her inauguration, Africa's first democratically elected woman head of state, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf visited the organization's hospital ship docked in Monrovia. While onboard, she thanked Mercy Ships for helping her people at this critical time in her nation's history. After 14 years of civil war, peace in Liberia remains fragile. Schools and health centers, where they exist, barely function and there is still no national telephone, electrical grid or piped water.
The crew on each Mercy Ship is made up of volunteer professionals from around the world. Doctors, dentists, nurses, community developers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and many others donate their time and skills to the effort. Volunteers pay $350 per month room and board enabling the charitable contributions to be directly applied to programs benefiting those most in need. Doctors with Mercy Ships have performed more than 21,000 life-changing surgeries since the early 80's and provided more than 2 million total services impacting more than 5.5 million people.
Mercy Ships is the leader in using hospital ships to deliver free world-class health care services to the poor living in developing nations where health care is often nonexistent. . Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, and following the 2,000 year old model of Jesus, Mercy Ships brings hope and healing to the world's forgotten poor. The story of Mercy Ships is told in Ships of Mercy, published in 2005 by Hodder & Stoughton UK and Thomas Nelson US and is available at: www.shipsofmercy.org
International Contact: Diane Rickard
Director Media Relations, Mercy Ships International
UK: 44 1438 727 800
USA Contact: Pauline Rick
US Media Liaison, Mercy Ships
US Tel: (903) 939 -7649