Volunteers Keep Mercy Ships Afloat

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Mercy Ships recognizes contribution of volunteer crew who “keep the lights on.”

Carys Parker, 18 (left) with her father Dr. Gary Parker (right) on board the Africa Mercy.

Carys Parker,18, (left), raised on Mercy Ships, "...developed compassion that moves beyond pity and expresses itself in action towards those who suffer. She knows that with a look, a touch, even just her presence, she can make a difference, one person at a time," says her mother, Susan Parker. Susan (not pictured) and Dr. Gary Parker (right) have volunteered for and lived on board Mercy Ships for over 26 years.

As Scott Pelley of CBS 60 Minutes recently said, “Spend a few days as we did aboard the Africa Mercy, and you will see how two worlds meet at the intersection of courage and compassion.”

Mercy Ships pauses during National Volunteer Week (April 21-27, 2013) to salute its volunteer crew on behalf of the more than 2.42 million direct beneficiaries who have received curative surgical interventions, health care training, dental procedures and community development projects in more than 70 countries.

As Scott Pelley of CBS 60 Minutes recently said, “Spend a few days as we did aboard the Africa Mercy, and you will see how two worlds meet at the intersection of courage and compassion.” The Mercy Ships team of dedicated and compassionate volunteers permits the pursuit of its mission to bring hope and healing to the poor, mobilizing people and resources worldwide. Mr. Pelley experienced seeing that love in action firsthand.

In the port city of Conakry, Guinea, West Africa, a young man dared to glance in a handheld mirror after surgery. He gasped as his hand subconsciously reached up and touched his face – a ghastly facial tumor that had been slowly suffocating him for the past five years was now gone. Meanwhile, in another ward on the hospital ship Africa Mercy, three siblings that were born blind, ages one, three and seven, each had their own “miracle moment.” After surgery to remove congenital cataracts, each opened their newly repaired eyes and gazed at their mother for the very first time ever. Since 1978, Mercy Ships volunteers have performed these and more than 67,000 other surgeries, as well as helping deliver services and materials, totaling over $1 billion dollars, in developing nations.

Due to the complex nature of Mercy Ships projects and programs, volunteer professionals are required to fill a wide range of skills. Dr. Gary Parker serves as an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon and is the Chief Medical Officer onboard the Africa Mercy. Dr. Parker started volunteering with Mercy Ships in 1986. After meeting his future wife on the ship, he married and has since raised two children while living and serving onboard with his family for more than 26 years.

Volunteers from around the world, like Engineer Tom KenKnight from the USA and OR Sterilizer Juan de Jesus from the Dominican Republic, make the Mercy Ships mission a success. Some crew live onboard for several years while others volunteer for several weeks or months. Volunteers fill roles such as cooks, schoolteachers, ward and OR nurses, pharmacist assistants, housekeepers, registered clinical dieticians, agriculture and nutrition facilitators, business analysts, anesthesiologists, hospital supply coordinators, plumbers, carpenters, IT managers, bio-medical technicians and orthopedic surgeons, to name a few of more than 100 different volunteer positions filled by 1600 volunteers annually from more than 35 nations.

Mercy Ships succeeds in large part due to its world-changing and selfless volunteers. For information about volunteering or helping to support a crew member, go to http://www.mercyships.org.


Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class health care services, capacity building and sustainable development to those without access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1 billion, impacting more than 2.42 million direct beneficiaries. Each year Mercy Ships has more than 1,600 volunteers from over 35 nations. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, health care trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time. For more information click on http://www.mercyships.org

National Volunteer Week in the USA (April 21-27, 2013) celebrates ordinary people doing extraordinary things to improve communities across the nation. This one week highlights the enormous contributions that volunteers make every day. The theme -- Celebrating People in Action -- honors individuals who take action and solve significant problems in their communities. Since our nation's founding, volunteers have been the source of action and change. Two hundred and 35 years later, their energy continues to move our country forward. Click on http://www.independentsector.org/volunteer_week

Media Contact:
Pauline Rick, U.S. Public Relations Coordinator
email: us.media(at)mercyships(dot)org
phone: 972-922-5442

Hi-res photos and general Mercy Ships video footage are available upon request.

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