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Mercy Ships is a Christian charity that provides vitally needed health services and education in developing nations through a fleet of three hospital ships. Founded in 1978, Mercy Ships has performed 1.5 million medical services including surgery to correct cleft lips and palates and dental procedures. The charity also treats people in rural clinics and has an education program to train rural care providers.
Like many other Christian charities, Mercy Ships treats people regardless as to their religion or racial origin in nations ranging from Tonga to Poland. The core values of the organization include faith in God, service to others, personal integrity, and a commitment to serve others with excellence. The ships in the Mercy Ships fleet dock at a location for up to six months providing health services on and off board, and then move on to another area.
Mercy Ships has two primary programs: one that provides community empowerment, and another for surgeries and health care. The community empowerment program includes literacy education, sanitation, loans for small business, agricultural training, construction projects, community health education, women's outreach, and training of health care professionals. Through the community empowerment program, Mercy Ships hopes to have a lasting impact on the communities it works in, by laying the groundwork for strong social programs and an improvement in living conditions.
The health care arm of Mercy Ships also handles a wide variety of needs ranging from emergent diseases such as HIV/AIDS to malaria education. Mercy Ships also specializes in corrective surgery for blindness and disfiguring deformities, as well as potentially dangerous health conditions such as tumors, burns, injuries sustained during combat, women's health issues, and dental care. Outreach programs help to educate people about proper dental hygiene and self care to prevent the onset of serious illnesses.
Volunteers staff the Mercy Ships and the offices of the organization, some serving long tours and others short ones. The charity is supported by donations from the public, grants, and assistance from pharmaceutical companies who assist Mercy Ships by providing low cost medical supplies. Many Christian organizations support Mercy Ships, as it encompasses traditional Christian values of compassion for others and loving care for the forgotten poor. Their policy of caring for all people in need regardless as to race, gender, and religion has directly impacted the lives of millions and improved living conditions for countless others.