On International Day of the Seafarer, we honor our seafarers. Operating two ships means we rely heavily on the those who use their time and skills to transform the lives of thousands who walk up our gangway.
In the last year, the pandemic has exposed the fragility of healthcare systems worldwide and has made us even more determined to increase access to medical care in the continent of Africa. To accomplish this mission, Mercy Ships utilizes floating hospitals, the Africa Mercy and Global Mercy — the largest charity-run hospital ships in the world.
Operating two ships means we rely heavily on the seafarers who use their time and skills to transform the lives of thousands who walk up our gangway. This Day of the Seafarer, we wanted to celebrate a few of the volunteers who are changing the narrative of global surgery today.
Meet a Few of Our Seafarers
“This is where I am supposed to be. There is no question about that,” says Captain Taylor Perez.
Captain Taylor was introduced to Mercy Ships in 1984 when his ship stopped in Hawaii to refuel on its way from the United States to Asia. Our previous ship, the Anastasis, was docked nearby and some of the crew invited him onboard for lunch.
“I was absolutely stunned by the quality of the crew and atmosphere onboard,” he said. “They were very impressive.”
After that meeting, Captain Taylor began to volunteer with Mercy Ships during his time off. Since then, he has captained every one of the Mercy Ships fleet at one time or another and will soon serve as Captain of our newest ship, the Global Mercy.
“The ship is the hospital. You can’t have the hospital without the ship. The doctors and nurses, who do such an amazing job, could not do it without the ship,” Captain Taylor said. “The ship can’t operate without its mariners… We don’t just need doctors and nurses, we need Deck Officers, Engine Ratings, ABs, Motormen, Engineers as well as carpenters, electricians, and other professionals who can take the time to see something different and be part of something with a big impact.”
Chief Officer Esther Dietrich knew she wanted to be a seafarer since she was a teenager.
“The idea of being out at sea and feeling the elements in combination with the technical profession [seemed appealing],” Esther said. “I grew up in a landlocked region. I sailed for 6 months around the world and continued from there. I don’t regret it at all.”
Esther first heard of Mercy Ships in 2010 when one of her classmates shared a desire to serve with us. Though she wasn’t ready at the time, Esther found herself sharing that desire. Finally, in 2021, she decided to volunteer as Chief Officer.
“Being a mariner, I’ve seen a bit of the inequality of the world,” Esther said. “My life is so privileged — education, healthcare, money, all things I never had to worry about. I really like the motivation behind Mercy Ships.”
When talking about her time onboard, Esther calls working with an international team a unique and positive experience, saying, “The mindset here impresses me — the way all different crewmembers work together and support each other. The word teamwork gets a different meaning.”
Joe Biney is from Ghana and has been volunteering with Mercy Ships since 1991. He currently volunteers onboard with his family as our Third Engineer. He and his team of engineers power the Africa Mercy from the Engine Room.
Seafarers like Joe play a major part in delivering Mercy Ships programs such as free surgical and medical care as well as medical training and mentoring programs. Without the generators in the Engine Room, there would be no lighting for the hospital, no power for the galley, and no air conditioning keeping the ship cool.
“With Mercy Ships, you are not alone. You have support,” Joe shared. “On a commercial ship, you may be alone, but onboard with Mercy Ships, people are standing with you. These people become your brothers and sisters, they become your friends. In the Engine Room, we work as a team. We have one goal that we are all working to achieve—to make sure people get help… It is a privilege, and it is an opportunity, and it is an honor to serve with Mercy Ships.”
Rodrigo Silva is our Chief Officer of the Global Mercy. Originally from Brazil, Rodrigo oversees the deck’s maintenance, cargo loading operations, treatment of freshwater, and sailing. He also leads the fire teams, amongst many other things.
“One of the highlights of volunteering with Mercy Ships is that I can do what I know how to do and have my family with me,” Rodrigo shared. “One of the cornerstones of seafaring life is that we are away and missing the things that are happening back home with the kids, with schooling, and with your spouse. Being onboard with Mercy Ships is different; you’re able to be together. You can work and, at the end of the day, walk back to your cabin and see your family. It’s unbelievably good.”
When asked if he would recommend working at Mercy Ships to other seafarers, Rodrigo, without hesitation, said, “I would encourage seafarers out there to come. You can expect an inviting work environment and the satisfaction of seeing your work making a real difference in the lives of the patients we serve.”
For many people living in sub-Saharan Africa, the healthcare landscape is even more dire than it was last year, with many lacking access to basic medical and surgical care. This is why Mercy Ships exists — to strengthen healthcare systems through training and mentoring whilst reducing the strain on those systems through free, life-changing surgery.
Yet, we can’t do what we do without all our seafarers who run our ships. Are you ready to use your skills to renew hope and transform lives? Mercy Ships needs volunteers like you to power our ships as we prepare to double the impact with two ships to help rebuild and strengthen healthcare systems. We need professional mariners who want to see something different and be part of the Mercy Ships mission of providing access to safe, timely healthcare.
To find out more and take the first steps on your journey with Mercy Ships, go to opportunities.mercyships.org.
Click the button below to find out more and take the first steps on your journey to sub-Saharan Africa with Mercy Ships.