The Prime Minister of Canada, The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau met with Mercy Ships Canadian volunteer crew members in Dakar Senegal on February 12 to thank them for their work. Joining the Prime Minister was Francois-Philippe Champagne, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Canadian Ambassador to Senegal Sebastien Beaulieu.
Representing the Canadian volunteer crew was Ms. Stephanie Verseveldt, a screening nurse from Burnaby, British Columbia and Ms. Irene Blotsky, a food services volunteer from Montreal, Quebec. Accompanying them was Mercy Ships Canada Board member Dr. Andrew Clark and Captain Taylor Perez, the Master of the Africa Mercy, both from the United States.
Mercy Ships operates state-of-the-art hospital ships run by skilled volunteers to deliver free surgery and world-class healthcare services and capacity building in developing nations. The Africa Mercy is currently deployed in the Port of Dakar, providing free healthcare for ten months from August 2019. The number of Canadian crew currently serving is 24 (out of approximately 400 on the ship). The Anastasis visited Senegal in 1993-1994.
John Treleaven, the Mercy Ships Canada Board Chair, remarked, “Each year Mercy Ships has more than 1,200 volunteers from over 40 nations that donate their time and skills to the effort. Approximately 100 Canadians annually volunteer on Mercy Ships overseas work. The international charity, Mercy Ships, follows the 2,000-year-old model of Jesus to provide hope and healing to the forgotten poor.”
Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1.6 billion, impacting more than 2.7 million lives. The Canadian Prime Minister’s interest in the work of Mercy Ships was an important acknowledgment that the charity sector in Canada continues to play a vital role in international development.
Mercy Ships provides a variety of medical capacity-building opportunities. For example, the host nation’s medical professionals (surgeons, nurses, administrators, and community health workers), along with curative surgical interventions, community-based preventative health strategies and agricultural training, are all involved in joint work together. Mercy Ships believes that everyone should have access to quality health and dental care. People, especially women and children, should not be penalized or denied care based on their gender or where they live. By collaborating with qualified local and international partners, Mercy Ships programs offer practical support to developing nations striving to make health care accessible for all. Programs implemented by Mercy Ships are designed to support the efforts of both.