Cycle challenge for Mercy Ships

Ken Brazier at the Camino del Norte
Ken Brazier at the Camino del Norte

A 76-year old volunteer from Princes Risborough has completed his eighth fundraising challenge for the international charity Mercy Ships, taking cash raised so far to £60,000.

Ken Brazier cycled to Santiago de Compostela in north west Spain to help raise awareness and funds for charity which operates the world’s largest civilian hospital ship providing free healthcare to those living in developing countries, namely in Africa.

Ken and his wife June have been volunteer speakers for Mercy Ships UK since first hearing about the charity’s work during a presentation given to the Princes Risborough Rotary Club in 2003, and together they have now given more than 500 talks.

Ken decided to take things one step further in 2007 when he conquered a sponsored climb of Mount Kilimanjaro aged 67 and later decided to set himself the challenge of cycling as much of the Santiago de Compostela trails as possible, despite being diagnosed with osteo arthritis shortly before his first trip.

Ken said: “I initially intended to walk one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela but when this became impossible I simply altered my mode of travel to bike. I thoroughly enjoyed the first trip and after discovering the addictive nature of the routes I’ve returned every year for the last eight years to complete new segments and I’ve completed around 2,000km in total.

“The cycling pilgrimages have been very successful, raising a further £44,000 for Mercy Ships. My next fundraising project will be a little closer to home. Next year I shall be cycling down from Loosley Row in Buckinghamshire to Lymington on the South Coast of England, taking the ferry to the Isle of Wight and then doing a complete circuit of the island.

“I’ve been astonished by the donations received over the last nine years but Mercy Ships is a very deserving cause which is helping so many of the world’s poor by offering free medical treatment and support. I will be 77 years old by next year but I know I’ve got plenty more miles left in my legs yet!”

Mercy Ships is currently docked in the port of Cotonou, in Benin, for a ten-month field service during which time the ships team of medical volunteers are expected to perform 1,700 life-changing surgeries on board and treat more than 8,000 people at a land-based dental clinic.

Lea Milligan, Executive Director of Mercy Ships UK, said: “Our volunteers are the lifeblood of Mercy Ships and allow us to provide free medical services to the poorest of the poor. Mercy Ships is only able to exist and to carry out its mission thanks to volunteers such as Ken and June Brazier.

“Ken’s fundraising efforts have been unbelievable and the generosity of his friends, family and supporters in their donations is having a direct impact upon hundreds of people’s lives in Africa right now.

“Benin, where the Africa Mercy is currently docked, is considered to be one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking at 166 out of 187 counties according to the United Nations Humanitarian Development Index. This is the fifth visit by a Mercy Ship to Benin and as well as delivering direct surgical services Mercy Ships will play a key role in delivering education programmes for local health workers to help create a sustainable legacy for the Beninese people.”