The Africa Mercy houses a culturally diverse community, boasting over 60 countries represented at any given time. With volunteer crew from all over the world, one doesn’t need to step foot onto the dock in West Africa to experience another culture. One simply needs to walk into the dining room!
On the Africa Mercy, volunteers make a point to share their country’s culture through various events that all crew are invited to attend. One event, “Carols by Candlelight”, is coordinated by the Australian volunteers at Christmas time– a beautiful night on the dock with the crew and patients, holding candles while singing holiday carols.
Yet, even with all of the exposure to new things, new people, new cultures, and new traditions, sometimes crew long for the familiar things of their home country.
Research shows that one of the things people living abroad miss most is the food of their home country. But food is not the only thing that can be missed. There is a longing for the familiar sounds, smells and traditions as well.
“After being docked in Dakar, Senegal for about seven months, I clearly remember the moment I walked through the gate onto the manicured ballfields of the U.S. Embassy. Just the smell of freshly cut grass brought a flood of emotions and I choked back tears. In the middle of a city in West Africa, there was this little piece of America, my home, and it immediately took me back to the unspoken peace and comfort that home brings,” shared one Mercy Ships volunteer.
Sometimes everyone needs a little bit of home, so to keep homesickness at bay, crew gather together with friends from their homeland. The American crew were no exception as they gathered for an evening of celebrating all things U.S.A. Crew were asked to bring their favorite American dessert to share and you can be sure apple pies were front and center on the buffet table. As the crew arrived, donning all the red, white and blue they could find, The “Key of Sea” (the a ‘capella group onboard the Africa Mercy) sang the National Anthem. With their right hands over their hearts, the U.S. crew sang along and shed a few tears.
With more patriotic music playing in the background, the American crew broke into teams for a U.S. trivia competition, played volleyball, enjoyed desserts, and finished the evening with a special treat. The captain granted permission to have a fire on the dock and the Americans enjoyed another home town tradition as the sun set in West Africa — S’mores!
The beauty of serving with Mercy Ships is no matter where the ship takes you, you will always be able to find someone who makes you feel at home. Just talking about the things you love about home can bring great comfort, and when you’re in a community of people who have all left their countries to come live on a ship, you quickly find that you are not alone in your feelings. With such great diversity, comes great capacity for connectedness.
If you want all the adventure of living over-seas in a multi-cultural community, while still having some of the comforting traditions of home, grab a friend and come serve with Mercy Ships! For more information, check out mercyships.org/volunteer.