CREW members from the international "mercy ship" M/V Anastasis will tomorrow receive a civic greeting as part of their stay in the North-East.

The international lifesavers have been playing host to thousands of schoolchildren and other visitors since the ship berthed on the River Wear in Sunderland, earlier this month at the start of a three-week visit.

Anastasis provides medical aid for some of the poorest countries in Africa.

The crew recently returned from Sierra Leone, where they provided free operations for local people, including cataract removals and facial reconstructions, and operated on children with cleft lips and palates.

Anastatsis is equipped with three operating theatres, a dental clinic, laboratory and x-ray unit, and has a crew including doctors, nurses, dentists and support staff.

Chief operations officer Warrie Blackburn said: "We've really enjoyed the warmth of our welcome here in Sunderland, and the chance our visit has given us to let more people know about the work we do.

"It will hopefully help us to attract more volunteers."

He will be among the party from Anastasis which will be officially greeted by city mayor Councillor Juliana Heron at Sunderland Civic Centre tomorrow.

Crew members have asked to make a video presentation to give councillors and visiting schoolchildren a flavour of their work.