We like to call the Africa Mercy a small city — a community of volunteers, both young and old, coming together to bring hope and healing to those in need.

“Day one of Mercy Ships there was an academy, because day one, there were families,” Nikki Aldum Academy Director said. “I don’t think God only calls parents, but I believe God calls families. The kids onboard have a purpose in this season with Mercy Ships, and while that purpose looks a little bit different than their parents’ purpose, it’s still important!”

The Mercy Ships Academy began in 1979 as a way to provide a quality Christian education to the children of the volunteers onboard the ship. As the parents worked to provide hope and healing to those in need, the children were able to pursue their education in a structured classroom environment.

“One of the things that we emphasize is that we have to prepare these kids for life, not just ship life because they come to us for seasons and not lifetimes,” Nikki said.

Students who come to live onboard the state-of-the-art hospital ship will find themselves learning more than just what the curriculum provides.

“There are challenges (to living onboard), but there are also incredible opportunities,” Nikki shared. “Our students are considered third culture kids, and the experience they get in terms of culture and travel is beyond anything they would ever get back home. They might not have the sports teams or the clubs that they would have at a school from their home town, but what they get to witness and experience here will shape their lives forever. And it changes in a beautiful way because it’s not driven by money. It’s driven by a heart of service and love.”

In addition to the cultural impact the students experience learning onboard the Africa Mercy, they also receive an education provided by a fully accredited International Christian School. The staff of the Mercy Ships Academy consists of qualified volunteer teachers who utilize the latest technology available to them to ensure that their students are able to perform at their best.

“We prioritize technology fairly highly because we’re preparing these kids to return to their home countries,” Nikki shared. “Whether they are returning to the classroom or moving on to the next phase of life, we want them to be prepared for whatever they come across.”

These preparations are especially important for the high school-aged students attending the Mercy Ships Academy. The students are given opportunities to pursue higher education with online courses and even have the opportunity to apprentice with some of the volunteers onboard the ship, offering them work experience.

While bringing safe surgical care and training to those in need is the heart of Mercy Ships, none of it would be possible without the dedicated volunteers who give of their time and services, and by extension, their families service.

“The ship is a community, and communities include children,” Nikki said. “Having the kids around the ship brings joy to those serving and helps it feel like home. It also serves to bring a sense of normalcy to the ship. You might be having a bad day, but then you see the preschoolers on deck 7, and it just brightens your day!”