For the second year in a row, Mercy Ships benefited as charity partner of the American Apparel & Footwear Association at its annual American Image Awards (AIA) held in May in New York City. The partnership has increased both funding and awareness to support Mercy Ships efforts to strengthen healthcare systems in Africa.

Mercy Ships volunteer surgeon, Dr. Mark Shrime, gave a presentation to the audience about his work in Africa.

“AAFA is committed to positive change for the apparel and footwear industry and is a natural partner in our work to make a lasting, transformational difference in developing nations in Africa,” said Don Stephens, President and Founder of Mercy Ships. “We are grateful for the support of AAFA and appreciate being part of the wonderful American Image Awards event this year.”

The glamorous gala, hosted by InStyle Magazine’s founding editor, was held at the historical 583 Park Avenue event space in New York City. Attendees included fashion icons, celebrities, and athletes. The 2016 American Image Awards winners included Person of the Year: Joseph Abboud; Company of the Year: BBC International LLC; Designer of the Year: Christian Siriano; Retailer of the Year: Shinola Detroit; and Fashion Maverick: Iris Apfel. Each honoree received a statuette created by world-renowned designers and artists, Ruben and Isabel Toledo.

“At the heart of the American Image Awards is our ability to honor our industry, while giving back to a charity partner that will somehow make the world just a little bit better,” emphasized AAFA President and CEO Rick Helfenbein. “AAFA was humbled with the incredible generosity at the event. We are pleased to be part of raising support and awareness of the Mercy Ships mission.”

Mercy Ships volunteer surgeon, Dr. Mark Shrime, gave a presentation to the audience about his work in Africa. He is the research director for the program in global surgery and social change and an assistant professor of otolaryngology and of global health and social medicine at the Harvard Medical School.

“Thank you to AAFA for partnering with Mercy Ships in such a powerful way through the American Image Awards. The impact of the organization and its membership is significant,” he commented. “The generous funding raised through this partnership is about more than just money. This support – to the people for whom it will bring life-changing surgery – is a donation of life.”

Mercy Ships has been working in Madagascar, Africa, for the past two years. One of the 2,951 free, specialized surgeries was performed on a woman named Patricia. She had suffered for 15 years with a two-pound facial tumor. She was delighted when Dr. Shrime surgically removed the large growth. Patricia said,

“The crew all work together to take care of us, and they work with love.”

In addition to the surgeries provided in Madagascar, professional volunteers at Mercy Ships trained 1,885 Malagasy healthcare professionals in medical capacity-building courses such as Primary Trauma Care, SAFE Pediatric Anesthesia, Newborn Resuscitation and more. These programs will improve the delivery of healthcare to the Malagasy people long after the ship departs.

In the fall of 2016, Mercy Ships will sail to Cotonou, Benin, where patients are already anticipating the floating hospital’s arrival.