A BIDEFORD couple have left home to spend two months on a "mercy ship" in Africa.Retired local policeman Tony Short and his wife Chris, a former clinic nurse at Bideford Hospital, have gone to Liberia.For the next two months their home will be Africa Mercy, a ship providing "hope and healing" to the forgotten poor.With some 450 volunteer helpers and complete with six operating theatres and beds for 78 patients, it carries medical aid to those who would otherwise have none.In addition to operations and medical procedures on board, teams from the ship also go ashore to work in local villages, providing a wide range of health services, plus water and sanitation projects, construction, agriculture and enterprise projects.Mercy Ships is a Christian organisation and Tony and Chris are members of Westward Ho! Baptist Church.Like all the volunteers, they are funding the trip themselves. Tony will be working as a healthcare supply assistant, helping to get supplies on and off the ship while Chris will be working in a dental clinic in a village - Liberia has just four working dentists for three million people. She will also be helping in the sterilisation of equipment for use by doctors in the fight against HIV and Aids."We are looking forward to the challenge and to helping people who would not otherwise have access to medical services," they said.This will not be the first voluntary work overseas for the couple. They have previously been to the Dominican Republic, helping to refurbish a medical clinic and doing some building work.On that occasion their sons Jonathan and Andrew went with them, helping to work on a local school.When they return Tony and Chris plan to share their experiences with others and to do fund raising on behalf of the Mercy Ships charity.Mercy Ships UK can be contacted on (01438) 727800 or via e-mail: email@example.com.