By Haley Hoar – Globally, five billion people lack access to safe surgical care, yet it is estimated that over 25% of the global burden of disease is treatable by surgery. These staggering statistics are the reason behind the Mercy Ships mission, to bring hope and healing to the forgotten poor, utilizing a fleet of hospital ships.
Mercy Ships is a faith-based international development organization that deploys state-of-the-art hospital ships to some of the poorest countries in the world. These ships, and their crew of volunteers, deliver free, vital healthcare to people in desperate need.
At 16,572 tons, the Africa Mercy is currently the largest civilian hospital ship in the world. Crewed by over 400 volunteers from more than 50 nations, this hospital ship is able to provide lifesaving surgeries to the people of sub-Saharan Africa, free of charge. A fact often overlooked is that approximately 30% of the crew onboard the Africa Mercy are technical crew – from marine officers to marine engineers, carpenters, plumbers, welders, and electricians. Each crew member is an integral part of the Mercy Ships mission.
“I am neither a doctor nor a nurse; I have very limited knowledge in the medical field… All I know is how to navigate a ship and keep it afloat,” said Sushmit Dhar, Second Officer from India. “Presently working as a second officer, my job is to make sure our hospital ships are seaworthy, following all maritime regulations, and ready to sail from one country to another as a ray of hope where there was none — and it’s through this work that I can do my part to bring healing.”
Mercy Ships provides volunteers with the opportunity to use their professional skills to transform lives. Both short-term and long-term opportunities to serve are available, depending on the position being filled.
“Everybody is part of it. You need every single person in order for it to work,” said Veera Kuosmanen, Deck Cadet from Finland and one of four women serving in the deck department onboard the Africa Mercy. “The galley is just as important as the engine room and the bridge and the captain and everything… It doesn’t work without the other. It’s not a straightforward impact, but it makes me very proud to be a part of this work.”
You can find a list of current volunteer opportunities at apply.mercyships.org.