In 1985, International Volunteer Day (IVD) was mandated by the General Assembly of the United Nations and has been held every year since on December 5th. On this day — and every day — Mercy Ships joins the world in honoring the efforts and contributions of volunteers, and to promote their daily efforts in support of the sustainable development goals at local, national, and international levels.

“The diverse and dynamic role of volunteerism in promoting the Sustainable Development Goals merits strong support from governments and other stakeholders. On this international day, I thank volunteers for their efforts to leave no one behind.” – UN Secretary-General António Guterres 

As far as Mercy Ships is concerned, every day is a good day to honor our volunteers. For us, every day is International Volunteer Day.

In honor of this day of observation, Mercy Ships would like to highlight just a few volunteers of the many that make up our incredible international crew. The specific group of volunteers highlighted below were serving in a medical capacity with Mercy Ships when COVID-19 became a global concern early in 2020. In March, the Africa Mercy made the difficult decision to halt its surgical program and depart Senegal ahead of schedule, with the health and safety of both its volunteers and patients in mind.

These medical volunteers readily transitioned into new roles in new departments that needed support, like the galley and housekeeping. The flexibility of these crewmembers and their servant-hearted attitude so well depicts what makes a Mercy Ships volunteer uniquely special. Mercy Ships can only accomplish its mission with the help of our crew of volunteer heroes.


Meet Just a Few of These Mercy Ships Heroes

Catrice Kpeglo and Ana Pinheiro Agua served in medical capacities as a ward nurse and a hand therapist and have recently volunteered in the galley as well.

Catrice with a patient in the ward.


Ana working with a patient in rehab.


Ana (L) and Catrice (R) volunteering in the galley.

Catrice and Ana were both serving onboard in their respective departments when COVID-19 rocked the world in March of 2020. When the Africa Mercy quickly had to discontinue its surgical schedule to protect volunteers and patients alike, both Catrice and Ana transitioned in April to the galley to help keep the crew healthy and nourished — talk about being team players! Look at those smiling faces. Mercy Ships is grateful for Catrice and Ana, and the incredible group of volunteers they represent.


Michelle White served as a clubfoot program physical therapist and now works in the galley.

Michelle, with a Ponsetti patient.


Michelle, in the galley.

Michelle joined Mercy Ships in 2016 as a volunteer physical therapist, and then again in January 2020 as a Clubfoot Program physical therapist until COVID-19 halted Mercy Ships programs in March of 2020. Michelle transitioned in April with other staff like Catrice and Ana to the Galley, but this wasn’t new territory to Michelle — she had served as a cook in the past as well! Thank you to Michelle for her service and heart to serve both patients and crew.


Mariam Ibrahim served as a palliative care nurse and is now serving as a housekeeper.

Mariam also joined Mercy Ships in 2019 as a volunteer Palliative Care Nurse and then transitioned in April 2020 to help support the housekeeping team in a COVID-19 environment. Once the Africa Mercy returns to Africa, she will lead the Palliative Care team as the nurse team leader for our next field service. Thank you, Mariam, for providing support to her patients and her fellow crew!


Becca Cavari served as a ward nurse in the pediatric ICU and now serves as a housekeeper.

Becca with one of her patients. 

Becca first joined Mercy Ships in 2019 as a volunteer Ward Nurse (Pediatric ICU). Due to COVID-19, Becca transitioned to a Housekeeper onboard in April 2020 and is now serving in the vital role of Crew Nurse until the Africa Mercy can return to Africa in April 2021. Becca has our thanks for her service to her patients and to her fellow volunteers!


The UN General Assembly announced that the theme for the 2020 International Volunteer Day is “Together We Can Through Volunteering,” and no theme could be more appropriate. Mercy Ships volunteers from around the world make hope and healing possible every day. Together  in the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres  we can make sure to “leave no one behind.”

Join us in celebrating all of our Mercy Ships heroes!