Mercy Ships bringing care to world’s poor
A nonprofit organization that provides medical care to residents of undeveloped countries and was founded by two former Western Slope residents will be featured on CBS’ “60 Minutes” this evening.
The segment will focus on the work Mercy Ships does to help develop a more sustainable world and its mission to deliver free professional health care to those in the developing world. “60 Minutes” airs on KREX-TV beginning at 6 p.m.
Scott Pelley, anchor and managing editor of CBS News, joined several “60 Minutes” producers on Mercy Ships’ floating hospital, the Africa Mercy, last May. The team interviewed the crew, staff and volunteers, including Don Stephens, founder and president of Mercy Ships. The team of producers uncovered the stories of several patients on the ship.
“Being on ‘60 Minutes’ could be huge for us and our mission. Ten to 15 million may view this program, and we hope to build and launch another hospital ship so we need nurses, engineers and others who share our values,” Stephens said. “Hopefully many will partner with us in bringing hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.”
Pelley interviewed Dr. Gary Parker, a maxillofacial surgeon who first volunteered for the Africa Mercy 26 years ago. Parker met his wife onboard and has raised two children on the ship, while performing surgery for people with facial deformities.
“These are people that go out at night and they forage for food, and then in the day they hide. They can’t go to the market or school. They are isolated,” Parker told Pelley during their “60 Minutes” interview.
Mercy Ships is an international nonprofit and has visited more than 70 different countries over the past 35 years to help nearly 2.5 million people. Stephens founded Mercy Ships with his wife, Deyon, when they bought the ship Anastasis in 1978.
Several factors influenced Stephens’ decision to buy the ship and start Mercy Ships, including his meeting with Mother Teresa in 1977.
“(Mother Teresa) helped me focus on three questions: What my purpose in life is, what pain I have experienced to prepare me for this purpose, and what I am doing about this purpose and dream,” Stephens said.
The Stephenses lived onboard for 10 years before settling in Texas, where Don Stephens now directs the organization.
The Africa Mercy is the world’s largest civilian hospital ship. It’s fully staffed with 400 volunteer professionals from 40 nations and 78 ward beds.
“Imagine St. Mary’s (Hospital), but in the poorest, most underserved cities of Africa,” Stephens said.
Don is a 1963 graduate of Olathe High School, and Deyon is a 1964 graduate of Grand Junction High School. Deyon also is a graduating member of the nursing program at Mesa Junior College.
More information about Mercy Ships and how to volunteer can be found at http://www.mercyships.org.