Donations help to keep medical charity afloat

The Bega Valley community has come together to help raise funds for those requiring medical attention in Africa.  

Around 150 people attended the Mercy Ships Fundraiser at the Tathra Beach Country Club on Monday, June 13 where they raised almost $3000 to donate to the organisation. 

Mercy Ships is a medical charity that uses hospital ships and ground-based teams to deliver free surgeries and health care to the poorest people in the developing world.

The committee of Jill Collins, Jill Short, Jan Watling, Sherry Lucas and Jo Fitzer spearheaded the fundraiser and with the Tathra Country Club providing a venue the stage was set for the day. 

“I didn’t expect there to be as many people as were there,” Ms Collins said. 

At the fundraiser, Bega Valley Shire Deputy Mayor Liz Seckold gave an inspiring address explaining the work done on Mercy Ships and officially opened the event.

“In Australia, people are used to giving money to cancer research,” Ms Collins said.

“But Mercy Ships in Africa?

“Not everyone knows about it.” 

This event follows on from the Bega Valley’s commitment to the charity, possibly starting with Associate Professor AJ Collins some 10 years ago when he began his annual pilgrimage to the Mercy Ships.

Since then, local GPs, dentists and families have volunteered on the ships and supported their projects. 

Currently, the Forrest family of Tathra is on the ship.

David Forrest is principal of the K-12 on-board school, while Justine Forrest photographs and documents patients’ stories.

Two of their daughters are at school.

Ms Collins said at the fundraiser Sarah Lam, a dentist at Beach Street Centre in Merimbula, gave a presentation about her time volunteering with Mercy Ships – she even had a photograph of her and the Forrest family. 

Dr Lam joined the hospital ship Africa Mercy for two weeks in January this year during its deployment in the East African island nation of Madagascar.

Ms Collins said at the fundraiser three different people came together to donate $150 for a complete set of operating instruments for a surgical theatre.

A little goes a long way, she said, as $25 pays for a whole day of a person’s attendance at Mercy Ships. 

Ms Collins was involved in another fundraiser for the charity last year, where about $1300 was raised.

She expected to raise even more next year.

“Next year will be easier as people are becoming more understanding and accepting of Mercy Ships,” she said.  

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