A City of compassion on a global scale

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When we think of the City, we think of commerce, business and career ladders, but community, charity and compassion also play a significant role both within the City itself and as part of its global endeavours.

The bread which you hold back actually belongs to the hungry;
The garment which you lock in your chest belongs to the naked;
The shoes which rot in your storehouse belong to the bare footed;
And the money which you are hiding ... belongs to the needy.
Thus you do a great injustice to all those whom you could succour.

- St. Basil of Caesarea, 4th century

The City of London is associated with many things, but it’s not often we talk about it in the context of care and compassion. We think of commerce, business and career ladders, but community, charity and compassion also play a significant role both within the City itself and as part of its global endeavours.

To me, this is as important as any other factor in the work, health and long-term success of the UK’s business centre; as a community we have the power to do great things when we bring our different skills and talents together to do good. We are increasingly aware of the impact of our actions and investments on the world around us and as donors and/or stewards of capital, whether big or small, we can take an active interest in how our funds are being deployed. There is also real psychological benefit for the giver/donor in developing a spirit of generosity, besides the obvious benefit to the recipient(s).

While the past 18 months have presented a particularly important need to care for one another on multiple levels, it’s an ongoing need that many individuals and organisations work tirelessly to provide. The Lord Mayor’s Appeal is well known for its perennial efforts to support the changing needs of the City, and the people involved have worked exceptionally hard to pivot and scale to meet those requirements since March 2020.

This year’s Impact Report highlighted their efforts with charities and groups including The Power of Inclusion, This is Me, She Can Be, City Giving Day, the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, Samaritans, Place2Be and OnSide YouthZones. The Lord Mayor’s City Giving Day alone raised an estimated £300,000+ for charities and good causes and there are now over 100 Samaritans City Hub volunteers, with a further 100 having started or about to embark on their training.

Mercy Ships surgery

Global Mercy

Arguably one of the best examples I can think of when it comes to the power of this community to do good is the work of Mercy Ships, which launched its new hospital ship this year - the Global Mercy. It is the world’s largest non-governmental hospital ship.

Having been on the Board and seen the wonderful work that the faith-based international development organisation has done through its Africa Mercy ship, it’s wonderful to see the next one coming along, facilitated by the ongoing support - financial and otherwise - of so many in the City of London. Mercy Ships Chairman, Henry Clarke, mentioned that the UK has consistently been the second biggest contributor to the organisation after USA for more than 40 years.

For those who are unaware of the work of Mercy Ships, they are a wonderful example of what can be done when talent, determination and compassion come together. It was started in 1978 by a couple who wanted to take hospital ships to the poorest nations around the world, to bring hope and healing through surgical intervention. Their work currently focuses on Africa as this is where the need is currently most acute.

Stark facts include:

Globally, five billion people have no access to safe and affordable surgery when they need it.
An estimated 16.9 million people die each year from a lack of safe surgery.
Access is worst in low-income and lower-middle-income countries, where nine of ten people cannot access basic surgical care.
Mercy Ships seek to address these issues through three clear objectives:

1) Transforming lives through surgery.

Often these surgeries are the primary barrier for people to get into work or be accepted by a community. They don’t just heal the person, but also their families and communities as well. It gives people a chance at a future.

2) Training.

Mercy Ships seek to train indigenous doctors in surgery and preventative medicine in order to proactively work towards eliminating the need for Mercy Ships work.

3) Healthcare systems.

They aim to help countries to build their own healthcare systems for long-term, sustainable care.

Mercy hips volunteers

Their work depends entirely on volunteers, from doctors to teachers, hairdressers to plumbers, all of whom serve the communities on board the ships. Each person pays for their own flights out to Africa and is supported through the patronage of companies or family. In context, the chief surgeon, Dr Gary Parker, has been on board for 32 years. Volunteers even give their own blood on board the ship.

The Global Mercy is game changing in its size and its facilities – not least because of the wealth of teaching space that it includes for training local doctors. It’s expected that within its 50-year service, more than 150,000 lives will be changed onboard through surgery alone. I could go on, but I suggest you visit their website if you are interested in finding our more –


Mercy Ships surgery

Supporting the supporters

The other thing that I think we’re becoming increasingly aware of with the rise in understanding around mental health, is the need to support the people who are so selflessly supporting us. One of the organisations that is quietly vital for this is the Clergy Support Trust.

They have been in existence for nearly 400 years, providing financial support to clergy and their families. That might be grants for household needs, such as laptops (especially with home schooling during the pandemic), holidays, car-related and general living expenses, or in the form of emergency grants (they helped over 1600 families across all grants last year alone). In the last few years, they have also started to provide non-financial support, primarily delivered through partners, such as counselling, help with insomnia and debt management services. A growing area of support is also in preventative work – especially when it comes to mental health or financial distress.

Chief Executive, Ben Cahill-Nicholls, describes it as a charity (independent of the Church), that:

“Exists to serve people who are serving everyone else. That’s been important forever but in the last 18 months, clergy and their families have, like everybody else, experienced turbulence and isolation. Their roles can be joyful, but also demanding and exhausting. Like everybody, clergy and their families do sometimes need support, which is where the Trust comes in. It’s a huge privilege to serve those who serve others.”

In my professional and civic roles in the City, I am privileged to meet and work alongside a number of truly inspiring individuals and organisations, and importantly to see how important each piece of the puzzle is to a number of collective goals. Yes, the City is a centre of business, but alongside their successes, corporate organisations have an opportunity and a role in providing care and support where it’s needed most – both at home and around the world. It’s fantastic to see how many take up that mantle, often quietly and without self-aggrandisement. In that it really is a community capable of immense compassion.