PROBUS: ‘Mercy Ships’ is a global Christian charity founded in 1978 by Don Stephens. In an illustrated talk by John Rhodes, a retired doctor, members heard of the work currently being carried out in subSaharan Africa by volunteer medical and support staff on the ship ‘African Mercy’. Doctors and surgeons give immediate medical care, free of charge, on board the hospital ship which docks in ports at the request of governments The ship is equipped with operating theatres, diagnostic suites, a high dependency unit and a dental surgery plus shops, a school, laundry, library and dining facilities. The need and demand for care is high and queues form daily to be screened and given appointments for appropriate treatment for conditions including cleft palates, cateracts, tumours, burns, club foot as well as carrying out plastic surgery, amputations and fitting of prosthetic limbs. Land-based hospitals are supported for follow-up treatment.

The 16,000 tonne ship was purchased for over £4 million by Ann Gloag, a benefactor, and was refurbished and fully equipped for £31 million, coming into operation five years ago.

Annual running costs are about £3 million. The organisation needs support for the continuation of a much-needed service and has fund-raising offices worldwide.

It is estimated that millions of third-world and developing world people die annually from preventable diseases and that 90% of the world’s blind live in poor communities.

Matlock Probus Club meets on the first Thursday of every month at the Duke William Hotel on Church Street at noon for lunch at 12.30. New members are always welcome. Anyone interested can find out more from Secretary, Graham Bowmer (01629-534592).