Bay couple's act of Mercy

By Sonya Bateson

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West Africa's sick and needy will soon be getting a helping hand from Tauranga's John and Sue Clynes.

The Bellevue couple are travelling to Congo in West Africa in June to volunteer on the hospital ship Africa Mercy for two years.

They have to pay their own airfares, accommodation and meals while working, without pay, full time on the ship

Mrs Clynes is a Tauranga Hospital theatre nurse and will be helping look after the sick, while Mr Clynes, an employee of Bay Engineer Supplies, will be using his skills for ship repairs and maintenance.

Mr Clynes said working in Africa had always been a dream of his wife's and had also become a passion of his own.

"We went for a month last year to Togo to work on the ship and thought we could do it for longer. Since then, it's been our goal. It's going to be hard leaving our family and the community and all of those things but we're committed to it, we're at that stage of life now where we can do it," he said.

"There are about 450 crew on board, some are permanent and some will stay for a month so it's going to be exciting in that respect.

"There's a requirement for all people to speak English but there's still a constant ebb and flow of languages. There's a lot of Europeans, Dutch, a lot of Americans and a few from Asia." He compared to living in a campervan.

"They've made it quite pleasant, we've got our own accommodation and the hospital side of things has first-world technology, exactly what you'd see at Tauranga Hospital. It's quite amazing."

He said the hospital had six operating theatres and a 70-bed ward plus services on shore such as dentistry and agricultural projects training the local people for a sustainable future.

Mr Clynes said he and his wife were thankful for the community's help with funding the trip. They have also contributed their own money.

"We've had fundraisers and some people have pledged their support.

"Many generous locals recently contributed with items towards a big garage sale fundraiser, which raised a total of just over $6000."

There will be a documentary on Prime TV tonight at 7.30pm about mercy ships.

To support Mr and Mrs Clynes or find out more information about mercy ships, visit www.mercyships.org.nz

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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