There are no seagoing ships in Prince George, but there are some local residents involved with a ship that fights poverty and pain suffered in some of the world's trouble spots.
Mercy Ships is a global medical organization that began in 1978 and has since worked in 70 developing countries. Sixteen international offices gather resources to staff and service the oceanic mission, all of it delivered by boat.
One of their newest offices is in Canada. Based in Victoria, its landlubber crew has two Prince George resident - communications officer JoJo Beattie and donor relations captain Colleen Sullivan and they are about to welcome a third. Local youth Jonathan Ardell has volunteered to go overseas aboard the ship.
Beattie and Sullivan were back in their hometown this past week to raise the flag for Mercy Ships.
The crew operates out of the Africa Mercy, the world's largest non-government hospital ship. It is 450 feet long and was a Danish rail ferry before it was converted into a hospital. There are five operating wards and 82 beds on board.
"We just arrived in the Congo," Sullivan said. "We stay docked there for about 10 months at a time, working with local doctors and local governments in each location. We have to be invited to a country with a formal invitation before we will go."
"It's really an amazing charity to work for," said Beattie. "Volunteer surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists from around the world pay their own way onboard and donate their time to the effort."
Some are on board for a matter of weeks, some for years. There is a school aboard specifically for the children who come along with their volunteering families. There are even volunteer baristas and hairdressers, to serve all the everyday needs of the transient medical community living on the Africa Mercy.
"We do a lot of surgeries, a lot of training," said Sullivan. "For example, we can do cataract surgery on someone basically blind and be done in half an hour, but it changes that person's life completely. We estimate in the Congo we will do between 1,535 and 1,920 surgeries, just for cataracts alone."
For more information on the Mercy Ships organization, visit their website. Donations of money, personal time, medical supplies and almost every other form of supplies and resources are all possible to arrange and needed for their ongoing missions.
To float any ideas, contact Sullivan at colleen.sulli...@mercyships.ca.