Mercy Ships Recognizes International Day of the African Child

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Story of 10 year-old boy demonstrates hope for African Children

Benedict on the gangway of the Africa Mercy hospital ship in Liberia before surgery. Two operations were performed to correct bi-lateral clubbed feet. Benedict will be able to walk, run and wear shoes like other children.

This generation is the future hope of www.mercyships.org [Africa]

Mercy Ships, a global hospital ship charity that provides free medical care to thousands of the world’s poorest people in Africa, is celebrating International Day of the African Child.

International Day of the African Child pays tribute to the courageous ten thousand black African school children, who marched the streets of Soweto in 1976 in protest against the poor quality of their education. It is also a day to promote the education, identity, welfare, status and other civil rights of children in Africa.

Millions of children in Africa suffer at the hands of poverty, as well as a lack of access to medical care. Forgotten and deprived, many perish.

The volunteers working onboard the Africa Mercy – the world’s largest charity hospital ship - offer those children hope and the opportunity to lead a full life.

Two years ago, 10 year-old Benedict Menkoah discovered how Mercy Ships can transform the life of a child. Benedict was born with bi-lateral clubbed feet, a condition which saw his feet turn so far inwards that his toes were facing each other. His feet also rolled forward leaving his soles facing upwards.

Although Benedict learned how to walk on the curled-under tops of his feet he was teased by his peers and abandoned by his parents. Isolated and outcast, Benedict’s sister who is also his caregiver, found Mercy Ships and in July 2007 his life took a turn for the better.

Mercy Ships gave Benedict free corrective surgery on his right foot onboard the Africa Mercy in Liberia and this May he returned for his second and final operation to have his left foot straightened. Each surgery took two and a half hours.

Benedict’s story is one of a little boy with dreams and ambitions, who wanted to be a doctor when he grew up but was physically and mentally unable to live a normal life due to his condition. Mercy Ships changed that for him. No longer shy and introverted, Benedict is now a confident little boy with the chance he deserves to grow up and become an educated adult and hopefully a doctor.

Dr. Doug Armstrong, a volunteer surgeon with Mercy Ships who helped treat Benedict onboard the Africa Mercy, said, “Benedict is a remarkable boy and his story is truly humbling. Benedict’s only hope to lead a normal life was corrective surgery. His condition was extreme and it takes a very strong individual to not only overcome the surgery, but learn to walk all over again. Benedict showed that strength in bucket loads by combating physical and mental battles. The smile on his face has stuck in my mind and reminds me every day why I am here.”

Since the Africa Mercy arrived in Liberia this past February, more than 2000 of the more than 10,000 procedures have benefitted children with little access to healthcare like Benedict. This includes reconstructive/plastic surgeries (head and neck tumors, burn contractures, cleft lip-plate, hernias and skin grafts), eye surgeries (cataract, strabismus, pterygium and evisceration), orthopaedic (including club feet, fractures) and dental assessment and treatments.

“This generation is the future hope of Africa,” stated Mark Thompson, VP of International Programs for Mercy Ships. “Our repetitive visits to African countries allow us to do multiple follow up surgeries, just as Benedict benefitted from two ship visits to have each foot operated on separately. Our surgeries are not our only provision for children. Mercy Ships community health services are based on meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as agreed upon by the world community to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health. ”

Notes to editors:

Photographs and audio sound bites of Benedict are available at http://www.mercyshipsnews.org/ .

About Mercy Ships: Mercy Ships is a global charity providing developing countries with free medical and surgical services. It also helps local communities develop sustainable water, sanitation and education programs.

Mercy Ships has treated more than 230,000 people in village medical clinics, performed more than 35,000 surgeries, 190,000 dental treatments and completed over 950 construction and agricultural projects, including schools, clinics, orphanages and water wells.

The charity operates the world’s largest non-governmental hospital ship, the Africa Mercy is staffed with volunteer doctors, nurses, engineers and agriculturists who visit ports in some of the world’s poorest countries. The massive need for help in West Africa has also led to the establishment of permanent land-based clinics and programmes, whose operation depends on reliable vehicle access.

For more information please contact:
Pauline Rick
U.S. Public Relations Manager
rickp@mercyships.org
Phone: 903-939-7649
http://www.mercyships.org

Diane Rickard
Director Media Relations - International
Phone: 44 1438 727 800
rickardd@mercyships.org

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Pauline Rick

Diane Rickard
Mercy Ships
44 1438 727 800
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