The Africa Mercy is more than a hospital ship, it’s home to our many volunteers — men, women, and families who dedicate their time to bringing hope and healing to the forgotten poor. Mercy Ships volunteers spend so much time together that they begin to form a unique family with “relatives” from all around the world. And just like any other family, they join together to celebrate important life events! Nikki Aldum, Mercy Ships Academy Director, shared one such event — the graduation of the Academy class of 2020!

Graduating from the Mercy Ships Academy is a unique experience for our students! They have the privilege celebrating this milestone with the entire onboard community, and the final week of the school year is filled with events and traditions celebrating their accomplishments. The two significant events held onboard the Africa Mercy is the Graduation Dinner and the Graduation Ceremony. Each year the upcoming graduates have the opportunity to plan this event themselves, with the help of the Academy Administration Assistant. Months of thinking and careful details culminate in these two very special evenings!

The Graduation Dinner is an opportunity for the graduates to invite members of the onboard community who have played a significant role in their lives to celebrate with them. During the evening, there are multiple opportunities to honor each of the graduates. Their parents prepare a speech that shares each student’s journey to reach this milestone, and there is an open mic for fellow students, staff, and crew to share encouraging memories or advice with our graduates. This evening also has many light-hearted moments to collect more memories through the photo booth and a delicious meal prepared by our Executive Chef. We want to honor each graduate and remind them of what they are taking with them into the next chapter of their life.

The next day, we celebrate with the Graduation Ceremony — our official celebration. The ceremony is planned around graduating students and the traditions from their home country. With a very small graduating class, we get to personalize the ceremony by having the graduates choose the commencement speakers and MC. After the formal event is over, the families host the graduation After-Party for the entire community — another moment to celebrate!

The 2020 Graduating Class of the Mercy Ships Academy has two graduates, Zoditu Schwind and Caleb Biney. Caleb has attended the Academy since his first day of Kindergarten and is now graduating — the first Academy student to do this onboard the Africa Mercy as most students are with us for a season, not their entire educational career. While Caleb and his family remain onboard the Africa Mercy at this time, Zoditu has returned home to the United States, where she completed her studies and was able to participate in the graduation activities via technology.

We are very proud of Caleb and Zodi, as they have reached this milestone, and start the next chapter of their journey!


The Mercy Ships Academy onboard the Africa Mercy is staffed by volunteer teachers and administrators every year. Volunteer teachers for subjects such as English, French, Math, Science, P.E., and many more subjects are needed for every field service. Learn more about volunteering here.  Also, learn more about the Mercy Ships Academy and its impact in bringing hope and healing here.