At Charity Charge HQ, it’s not uncommon for the conversation to turn to a discussion of our favorite nonprofits. While we love discovering new charities run by millennials, we can’t ignore decades-old organizations that are still leading the pack and making the world a better place. On tap today: Mercy Ships.

Founded in 1976 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships is a healthcare-focused Christian charity with a mission is to provide free medical care and community health education in port cities the world over. To reach these communities, they have transformed four out-of-commission ferries and cruise ships into floating hospitals.

As for impact, the numbers speak for themselves. Mercy Ships has helped an estimated 2.35 million people in Africa, . The organization’s volunteer doctors and nurses have performed some 61,000 operations and 278,000 dental procedures. The charity’s latest ship, the Africa Mercy, has more capacity than Mercy Ships’s three previous vessels combined. It is the largest civilian hospital ship in the world with 15 doctors, 90 nurses, 78 beds and 6 operating rooms. It is currently the only ship in service but they are outfitting another, larger vessel set to launch in 2017.

The ships dock for months at a time and admit patients with the most pressing needs (cleft palates and lips, cataracts, orthopedic maladies), many of whom have never received modern medical care. The charity’s volunteers also set up mobile clinics in communities surrounding each port city to educate local healthcare workers. Thousands of medical professionals have been trained by Mercy Ships doctors and volunteers and those trainees have shared and passed on their knowledge to thousands of other midwives, nurses, and healthcare providers in their respective communities. In effect, when a Mercy Ship leaves port, it doesn’t leave a vacuum for medical care in its wake. Their double-edged approach of immediate care and education improves lives for years into the future.

To stay afloat, Mercy Ships accepts donations from the public as well as goods (food, building materials, fuel, medical supplies, medicine) from corporations and bureaucratic support from the governments of the nations where they dock.

If you would like to donate, volunteer, or simply get more information about Mercy Ships, visit www.mercyships.org.

Stephen Garten
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