A Bexhill dentist has told of his experiences serving on the world’s largest floating hospital.
Mercy Ships is an international charity which uses a hospital ship, the Africa Mercy, currently docked in Madagascar, to deliver free health care and education to some of the world’s poorest people.
Dentist Paul Hellyer volunteered on the Africa Mercy whilst she was docked in Liberia in 2008 and for a second time in Sierra Leone in 2010.
Paul said: “Mercy Ships is remarkable in the way that the volunteers also work to train local healthcare workers and therefore the work of the charity serves not only the present needs of the country, but also the future needs - what a legacy to be able to leave behind.
“My experiences from the ship will stay with me forever and have undoubtable benefitted my dental skills, knowledge and therefore my career here in the UK.
“When you are on the ship you have got to think outside the box quite a bit which encourages me to come up with other solutions to problems, and that’s definitely an invaluable skill I have developed from volunteering with Mercy Ships.
“One of the most memorable experiences I have from my time in Sierra Leone was a night when myself and a few fellow volunteers decided to take a taxi from the ship into town for some dinner. The taxi driver didn’t know where the restaurant was and we were very lost. Sierra Leone Krio people are naturally very obliging and helpful but everyone we stopped to ask for directions sent us a different way.
“Eventually we stopped to ask a local man who immediately opened the car door and peered inside. He then broke into a broad smile and reached across to shake my hand, thanking me for the dental surgery I’d recently performed on him. ‘I am better now’, he said.
“Africa Mercy is a busy ship and with nearly 100 patients per day sometimes you forget the impact your help has on each individual. Here in the UK many of us take routine NHS check-ups with our dentist for granted but for many across Africa such treatment and dental care can be lifesaving.”
Mercy Ships has been selected as the official charity partner of the British Dental Health Foundation’s ‘National Smile Month’, the UK’s largest and longest-running oral health campaign, which is currently running until June 18.
The ship is currently docked in Madagascar, where over 90% of the population lives on just 75p a day. There are only 2 physicians and 3 hospital beds available for every 10,000 people,
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