Think of them as a floating hospital if you may - but the U.K.-based Mercy Ships is designed to be the world's answer to effective crisis response at sea. The international Christian humanitarian organization deploys ocean-going vessels as hospitals and relief and development vehicles with a goal it hopes to reach by 2005 of serving one million people.
Believed to be one of the largest individual gifts given to a Christian charity in the U.K. - a donation of $6.4 million was recently granted to the organization for the purchase of another vessel for its good Samaritan fleet. This good-will gesture offered by Ann Gloag, executive director of Stagecoach Holdings plc, will go toward Mercy Ships' purchase of Dronning Ingrid -a 16,071-grt Scandlines train and car ferry. Constructed in 1980, the vessel will travel from Denmark with a small Mercy Ships
' crew, followed by a two-year alteration project, transforming Ingrid into
a Hospital/Relief & Development mercy ship. Upon its readiness to float-out, the vessel will provide care for those less fortunate through free medical care, community development projects and relief aid to developing African nations who are struggling.
The group, which currently owns and operates three other vessels, Anastasis, Caribbean Mercy and Island Mercy, holds a volunteer staff of more than 700 long term, as well as thousands of short term volunteers from all over the world through 15 supporting offices onland.
Since 1978, volunteers/staff provide their own compensation in addition to the ships' monthly onboard living expenses and share a common goal of providing free help for those in need. In addition to surgical procedures and other medical processes performed onboard, the land-based Mercy crews tackle issues such as disease and poverty.