Frances King, a 76-year-old grandmother of five from Wrea Green, who worked in the NHS for 48 years including 20 years at Lytham’s Fernbank Surgery, has volunteered onboard the Africa Mercy three times, helping to deliver healthcare to the world’s poorest nations.
She first heard of the charity in the early 2000s from another speaker, and it inspired her to volunteer onboard and eventually become a speaker herself.
The mum of two, who has been married to her husband Michael for 54 years, said: “I was so inspired by this talk that I wanted to give something back as my career had given me such a good life.”
Frances said: “My first time was to Ghana in 2006. I was so moved by what I saw, and the work by all on board that I wanted to return, and I did. Next time to Liberia in 2008 and finally to Togo in 2010, after which my nursing registration expired.
“Working on and off the ship I was quite overcome when seeing hundreds waiting to be seen in the heat on their feet for hours, they would sing and smile, never complaining - not like here in the UK. It was like being part of a large family.”
In 2007, she was asked to deliver a speech about her experience onboard and the thought terrified her.
“Having never spoken in public in my life, I dreaded the thought when my local Mothers’ Union asked me to share my experiences,” she said.
"Michael persuaded me to do it and he put a presentation together. I thought I would only do it once!”
But the impact of Frances’ talks was phenomenal, and the donations kept rolling in, so she agreed to do more. Next month, she will retire after no fewer than 273 presentations.
Mercy Ships UK CEO Joanne Balaam said: “We are so incredibly grateful for the astounding effort and impact Frances has had.
“Her talks have helped make a vital difference through ensuring surgery to those who need it most and delivering ongoing training and expertise to local medics.”
More about Mercy Ships at www.mercyships.org.uk