What do you want to be when you grow up?

For so many young people, this daunting question fills them with fear. But for the children living onboard the Africa Mercy, the Mercy Ships Academy exists to help them answer it both by providing a quality Christian education from a fully accredited International Christian School, and the chance to experience different career options first-hand through our Work Experience Program.

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 Aldum, Academy Director, said.

Students who come to live onboard our state-of-the-art hospital ship will find themselves learning more than just what the curriculum provides. These preparations are especially important for high school-aged students attending the Mercy Ships Academy. With the Work Experience Program, the students have the opportunity to apprentice with some of the skilled volunteers onboard the ship, offering them a hands-on experience within the different career fields found on the Africa Mercy.

As part of this annual program, students apply to work alongside our volunteer crew by shadowing them for five days. They work the hours their mentors work, seeing for themselves the benefits and challenges of different professions, and the education paths it took to get them there. Students can choose from several departments, including engineering, medical, deck, communications, and stewards!

The process starts with students applying for available positions by drawing up a resume and writing a letter of introduction. They then must complete an interview, go through a selection process, and are approved to work in a specific role for the week — it’s all quite official! At the end of the week, they present a summary to their peers, sharing what they were able to learn and experience. Each year, students must apply for a different position, which requires them to try careers that they might not normally gravitate towards.

Learning through hands-on experience is invaluable. This program provides a real-life insight that cannot be captured on paper or found in a lecture. At times through blood, sweat, and tears, our students work alongside those serving the world’s forgotten poor through their professions onboard our hospital ship. They learn from people who are fully committed to giving their all — not for money, but for those in need. Our students see and experience their mentor’s dedication of going above and beyond what their jobs require.

As the African proverb says, “it takes a village to raise a child,” and Mercy Ships has taken those words to heart! Where else in the world could young people have this type of experience? We are grateful for the crew who volunteer to be Work Experience Mentors and invest in the lives of our students in this way. Their investment bears fruit long into the future, as they help shape the gifts and talents of our students during these formative years! One week can truly change a life forever.