A top Liverpool surgeon has been swapping his scrubs for cowboy boots and a second career as a cattle rancher in East Africa.
Stephen Blair, a varicose vein treatment specialist at the Spire Murrayfield Hospital, at Barnston, is just back from Uganda and a tenth anniversary tour of duty with young people from his local church group in Heswall.
He, his daughter, Cathy, and his wife, Christine, have spent three weeks in Uganda providing education and health services for people a decade after they first visited the country and set up their Rock of Joy charity.
They once again led a group of 30 young people, aged from 16 to 18, from the Parish of Heswall churches, the sixth time they have been to the country where they now support three schools, one in the capital, Kampala, and two in a rural area.
Joining them on the trip were Wirral dentist Paul Sherrard of Moreton Dental Care and his son Ed, a final year dental student in Newcastle.
The charity also runs a farm which already pays for two thirds of the running costs of the schools with plans to fund the project completely.
Stephen, 62, said: “It was my sixth trip and the tenth anniversary of our first visit in 2007 when Cathy was the inspiration. She had gone out to do a gap year with Oasis Trust in 2005 and spent six months developing a school in the slums of Kampala.
“She loved it and a couple of years later when she was in university she wanted to go again so together with others in the church and its youth fellowship we ended up going out, in total 36 of us.
“We came back both shocked at the conditions and realising how easy it would be to make difference, so we’ve been going back ever since.”
In the 10 years of visits they have taken out over 180 young people from church youth groups and Spire Murrayfield Hospital have done their bit by providing blood testing services before departure so that in the event of an accident – and Uganda’s roads are notoriously dangerous – everyone’s blood group is known.