PHOTO COURTESY OF MERCY SHIPS CANADA
Grace will have a tumour removed from her mouth thanks to the Mercy Ship 'crew.' The Mercy Ships Network is recruiting students to help raise funds and awareness for its charity
Mercy Ships is building a Canada-wide network of students as its first step in a global fund and awareness campaign to bring health care to the poorest areas of the world.
Mercy Ships has been operating since 1978, with its current focus being the Africa Mercy. The Africa Mercy is the world's largest charity hospital ship, and it travels West Africa staffed with volunteers and primarily provides surgery to some of the poorest countries in the world.
It has six operating theatres and a 78-bed ward and a crew of 450 volunteers, including but not limited to doctors, dentists and nurses. The ship is currently docked in Sierra Leone.
The Mercy Ships Campus Network will allow students to raise funds to run the ship's services, which include dental care and eye, orthopedic, postnatal and reconstructive surgeries.
The Africa Mercy also runs an education program in which surgeons train local health care professionals in procedures such as cataract surgery.
"Some of the clubs focus more on funding through traditional ways - bake sales, car washes. Some of them are more focused on raising awareness and finding volunteers to go and work on the ship," said Chelsea Kanstrup, Mercy Ships Canada campus network co-ordinator.
There are 12 Mercy Ships clubs on university campuses across the country, including Carleton University in Ottawa and the University of Calgary. Mercy Ships clubs can also be run at colleges and high schools.
A few of the clubs are run by nursing and pre-med students. And some clubs focus on speaking at local hospitals and clinics to recruit doctors, nurses and anesthesiologists.
"It's kind of a neat way for the students to get together with like-minded students at the university. . . . (Students) come together with other students to unite for a common cause," said Kanstrup.
Each club is asked to try and raise at least $1,000 a year.
"Some of the clubs decide if they would like it to go to a specific project, like eye surgeries or dental work or maxillofacial surgeries, or other clubs decide they would like it to go where it's most needed. They all go to fund the projects that are happening on board the Africa Mercy."
At least 85 cents from every dollar donated goes to the ship.
There is a national club campaign in February called Ship Out, which is an online garage sale. It will be held through eBay Giving Works where students can post used items for sale with profits going to Mercy Ships.
The campus network has been running since 2011. Mercy Ships has national offices in 16 countries. For more information, visit mercyshipscampusnetwork.com.