Mercy couple vow to return to Africa

A COUPLE, who have recently returned from a four month mercy mission to Sierra Leone, have spoken of the conditions people are having to cope with in the war ravaged region – and vowed to return there later in the year.

A COUPLE, who have recently returned from a four month mercy mission to Sierra Leone, have spoken of the conditions people are having to cope with in the war ravaged region – and vowed to return there later in the year.

Priscilla Carter and her husband Michael, both in their late 60s and from Reydon near Southwold, spent several months as volunteers working in Sierra Leone's Freetown and surrounding countryside from their base on board a mercy ship.

Mrs Carter, a retired nurse and an archdeaconry vice president of the Mothers Union in Suffolk, volunteered to work as a dental nurse on board the ship and her husband, a former engineer, agreed to help keep the ship's engines running smoothly and maintain surgery equipment.

They joined around 380 people on board, with volunteers ranging from catering staff to surgeons on board the hospital ship Anastasis, run by Mercy Ships, a global charity which ferries medical aid to areas in need.


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The Anastasis is a floating hospital providing free care, including the removal of tumours and cataracts and even the fitting and manufacture of prosthetic limbs.

Now the couple hope to go back in November for several months, as part of the ship's seven-month return to the region.

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Mr Carter said: "There is a real need out there and we only scratched the surface. Such hospital care that there is, and there is not a lot, is basic.

"There is no money for anything elaborate. Consequently a lot of things we do not see here, such as huge disfiguring growths and cysts, which would be dealt with here the moment they appear the size of a fleabite, are just left in Sierra Leon.

"Disfiguring diseases that eat away at the flesh, mostly the face, do not get treated. And there are a lot of people with war injuries, things like broken legs which have not been set properly. Children have things like clubfoot. The ship carried out nearly 600 operations in three months and more than 3,000 dental treatments.''

Mrs Carter helped with dental work and with medical screening, helping assess 2,500 people in two days, deciding which conditions could be treated and who could not be helped. It was 90F during the middle of the day and worked at a dental clinic in a lovely village spot 30 minutes drive from Freetown during her time there, with mountains, lizards and butterflies.

But in Freetown Mr Carter said he discovered that refugees were living in old factory buildings because there was no housing for them and found people struggling to scratch a living while there little children crawled, literally, in the gutter.

The couple are now hoping to raise funds to help a local church there pay for a new child's day care centre, supporting the work of worshippers there.

The couple, who joined the ship during October last year, also saw signs of things improving in the area. New businesses, carpentry shops, furniture makers, were starting up along the local roads, buildings destroyed or burnt in the war being rebuilt and new buildings and churches were going up.

Mr Carter said: "It's such an uplifting experience, that lots of people volunteer to go back every year. We will go out and do whatever the ships needs us to do.''

INTERNET:

www.mercyships.org.uk

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