Monday 14th July
Our speaker was Dr John Rhodes, a retired GP from Riddlesden, Keighley, who with his wife Iris came to raise our awareness of the work done by Mercy Ships.
Mercy Ships is an amazing charity which through hospital ships has since 1978 delivered vital medical care to impoverished countries down the west coast of Africa. The ship currently in service is a former rail ferry ship from Denmark which has been converted to a fully equipped hospital with operating theatres. It is staffed by highly qualified surgeons and other medical professionals. Everyone on board gives their services free, and pays for their own subsistence. Even the crew are volunteers. Some give up some of their annual leave to serve, others manage to get funding to do longer stints, and one surgeon has made Mercy Ships his career for the last twenty six years. Mercy Ships relies entirely on charitable donations, including from Rotary, which over the years has donated over £1.3m.
The ship visits countries by invitation, and works with governments and NGO’s. Training is delivered locally, aiming for good medical practices to continue long after the ship has sailed away. Demand for medical attention is huge. Thousands flock to the ship and a sifting process has to be undertaken to identify those who can most effectively be helped.
Dr Rhodes showed us slides illustrating gross and crippling deformities which in western countries would have been treated shortly after birth. He pointed out that 90% of cases of blindness can be treated by a short operation. Untreated obstetric fistulas are a particular distressing problem.
Dr Rhodes’ informative talk stimulated many searching questions from the club. Of course in an ideal world governments would do more to look after their own people, and unless and until they do, suffering will continue on a massive scale despite initiatives such as Mercy Ships.
The bottom line is that thousands of people are receiving life changing help thanks to the skill and dedication of the medics of Mercy Ships. They deserve our support.
At the end of the meeting, the club approved donations of £500 to St Gemma’s and £300 to the Stroke Association.