Good works afloat rewarded
A husband and wife who have spent most of their lives helping deliver desperately needed health care in deprived nations are being rewarded for their service.
Graeme and Sharon Walls started serving with the international Mercy Ships charity in 1983.
To acknowledge their work the Rotary Club of Hillsborough, Lynfield and Mt Roskill has awarded Mr and Mrs Walls with Paul Harris Fellowships.
Mercy Ships is a Christian organisation known internationally for its hospital ships that have provided medical, dental and community development aid in the world’s most impoverished ports for the past 30 years.
Mr Walls started out as a school teacher on one of the charity’s vessels and the then 19-year-old Mrs Walls worked in administration.
After meeting at sea, the parents of Jason, 20, Chelsea, 18, and Daniel, 16, went on to run Mercy Ships’ national offices in four countries.
‘‘Graeme said as soon as he stepped on board he knew it would be home – he just didn’t realise it would be for more than 30 years,’’ Mrs Walls says.
Life on board Mercy Ships flagship Africa Mercy was like being part of a village, Mrs Walls says.
The family of five lived together in their own apartment sized cabin and the children went to the onboard school.
More recently a Starbucks was added to the ship.
‘‘Everything you need to be independent is on board. It’s all about community on the ship.’’
The family moved back to Mt Roskill in 2008 where Mr Walls is the director of Mercy Ships New Zealand office and Mrs Walls is the communications manager.
Mrs Walls says they are likely to head back out to sea when Daniel finishes high school in the next two years.
‘‘A strong part of why we do what we do is our Chri- stian faith, we have a strong calling to do it,’’ she says.
Veterans: Graeme and Sharon Walls with Rotary International representative Larry Robbins, right.