Mercy Ship mission for Maureen

Ilfracombe dentist heads for Guinea to volunteer on board charity hospital ship.

AN Ilfracombe dentist has swapped life in the seaside town for life in West Africa after volunteering to help the Mercy Ships charity.

Maureen Richards, of Marlborough Dental Centre, is spending a month in Guinea working in a land based dental unit provided by the Africa Mercy ship, helping to make the lives of some of the world’s poorest people a little better.

The hospital ship is in the country for 10 months and is run by the international charity Mercy Ships.

It is the second time Maureen, 62, has volunteered to help the charity.


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“I feel it is important to give something back to society and I can use the gift I have been given,” she said.

“As a dentist I have skills I can use to relieve the suffering of those who would not otherwise be able to access care to relieve their dental pain. Dental abscesses still cause people to die if left untreated.

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“It’s extremely satisfying and moving to see a long queue of people waiting for help first thing in the morning and by the end of the day knowing I had helped so many who had so little.

“On the other hand it is very hard to see young children searching through rubbish heaps looking for food and something to sell.

“I had to treat a young woman who had been badly beaten by her husband and had been in pain for several months.

“It is very moving seeing the transformation in patients and the positive change in them after treatment - to see the happiness in their faces where previously there was suffering.”

The Africa Mercy is staffed by up to 400 volunteers from 40 nations who give up their time to help others. Volunteers range from surgeons and nurses, to cooks and engineers.

It was converted from a Danish rail ferry into a state-of-the-art hospital ship, with six operating theatres, X-ray facilities and CT scanner, a pharmacy and a laboratory. There is capacity for 78 in-patients with four wards and a small intensive care unit, as well as accommodation for 450 volunteers.

Maureen says she would encourage anyone thinking of volunteering to simply go for it:

“Although I have a profession to take to serve Mercy Ships, there is scope for anyone to serve whatever their gifts. It’s not just medical staff who can help.”

However, the charity is currently appealing for a range of nurses to volunteer in Guinea during the next 10 months. The ship requires nurses with specialities in adult or paediatric medical-surgical staff and ICU or PICU.

For more information or to make a donation visit www.mercyships.org.uk or call 01438 727800.

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