Is volunteering important?

Why every act of service matters

Serving as a volunteer can be a unique way to look outside yourself and serve others. Volunteering takes many forms, from lending a hand at local shelters to coaching a youth sports team or, if you’re like our volunteers, traveling abroad to offer aid to underserved communities in Africa. Yet, its essence remains the same: a selfless act driven by the desire to make a positive impact on the world. 

But does it really make a difference? Does taking time off your job and, in some cases, spending your own money to serve someone else really matter? If you’ve ever asked those questions, we want to help you answer them and a few more about volunteering. Let’s answer the question: Is volunteering important? 

What is a volunteer? 

Right now, our culture rewards hustle culture and personal gain above generosity and serving others. That’s why volunteering is often an opportunity to stand out. Volunteers do more than give of their time; they commit themselves to causes that are larger than themselves.  


Volunteering is a selfless act of dedicating time, skills, and energy to help others. It is a powerful tool for creating positive change in individual lives and communities. 

Volunteering allows people to use their unique talents and expertise to lift up those who are less fortunate. The work comes in many forms. If you’re ready to serve, you can find a cause you’re passionate about and contribute. It might be providing medical care, spending time tutoring children in afterschool programs, or just making yourself available to fill empty space at a nonprofit. Regardless of the role, every volunteer is instrumental in improving the lives of their community and the world as a whole.

And volunteering adds billions of dollars of value to nonprofits every year. The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that volunteer hours accounted for $184 billion in added value in 2021.

Furthermore, volunteering builds a sense of community, creating connections among people from diverse backgrounds who are united by a common purpose. At its core, volunteering is an act of kindness that catalyzes positive change. By dedicating your time and skills, you will make a difference.

Can volunteering help my mental health?

In the United States, it’s estimated that over 20 million adults struggle with depression every year. That’s nearly the population of New York City. More than double that struggle with other mental health issues like anxiety and stress.

Some overcome these issues in therapy. Some use medications. But did you know, small changes in lifestyle have also been proven to help?

Some of the top lifestyle changes recommended by counselors are consistent exercise, spending time outside, and volunteering. All three of these are proven to help people work through stress, anxiety, and depression.  

This is because volunteering brings with it a sense of purpose and fulfillment. When you contribute your time and skills to a cause you believe in, it provides a meaningful outlet for your energy and talents. This sense of purpose can combat feelings of emptiness or aimlessness, boosting self-esteem and overall life satisfaction.

Volunteering almost always involves social interaction, which is crucial for mental health. Connecting with others who share similar interests and values can alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation. Building supportive relationships through volunteer work can provide a sense of belonging and strengthen one’s social network, which acts as a buffer against stress and adversity.

And now might be the most important time in history for people to step outside of themselves and serve others in their communities. Rates of loneliness and depression are higher than they’ve ever been, with over 50% of young people in America reporting loneliness as one of the biggest problems they face. We think volunteering could be part of the answer to solving this problem.

Volunteering promotes mental well-being by reducing stress levels. Immersing yourself in meaningful activities does more than distract you from personal worries and stresses. It allows you to experience a sense of flow and concentration known as “the volunteer’s high.” Additionally, the act of helping others releases feel-good hormones like oxytocin and endorphins, which can improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Many people find that volunteering provides a healthy balance to their lives by offering a break from the routine and pressures of work or personal responsibilities. Engaging in charitable acts allows individuals to step outside themselves and gain perspective on their struggles, fostering gratitude and a greater appreciation for life’s blessings.

Looking for a way to volunteer? We’ve got a place for you in our mission of hope and healing. Check out all our open positions here.

How do I find ways to volunteer? 

Once you’ve decided to volunteer, the next step is finding the best fit for you. Finding volunteer opportunities can be an enriching experience! Here are some ways you can discover opportunities to volunteer:

Online Volunteer Platforms: Websites like,, and allow you to search for volunteer opportunities based on your location, interests, and skills.

Community Centers and Places of Worship: These places often organize volunteer activities and may connect you with local initiatives.

Schools and Universities: If you’re a student, check with your school’s community service office or clubs for volunteer opportunities on and off campus.

Local Events and Festivals: Volunteer to help out at community events, festivals, or fundraisers. These can be great ways to meet new people and contribute to your community.

Crisis Hotlines and Support Services: Organizations that provide support services often need volunteers to help with various tasks, such as answering phones or assisting those in need.

Nonprofit Organizations: Many nonprofit organizations depend on the work of volunteers to keep costs of work down and ensure that those they serve are given the best available. Organizations like Mercy Ships have been built on the hard work of volunteers.

Consider your interests, skills, and availability when choosing volunteer opportunities. It’s also a good idea to contact organizations directly to inquire about their volunteer needs and how you can get involved.

You can look through all those sites and find hundreds of amazing opportunities to serve others. But if you’re looking for one of the most unique volunteer experiences in the world, keep reading.

A Unique Volunteering Experience 

You’ve made your decision. You are going to volunteer and help impact the world around you. Why not do it while having the adventure of a lifetime? Both Mercy Ships hospital ships are crewed by volunteers from around the world. Our volunteers come from 60 different countries. From doctors to teachers, mechanics to cooks… there’s a place for everyone in the mission of hope and healing. 


What is it like volunteering with Mercy Ships? 

As a Mercy Ships volunteer, you bring about change in the lives of those in need and have the opportunity to grow in your talents while doing life-changing work.

We send our hospital ships to the poorest communities in Africa to perform lifesaving surgeries and train local medical professionals in state-of-the-art practices so we can strengthen their healthcare systems.  

Our volunteers grow by experiencing different cultures and perspectives. This newfound understanding broadens horizons and builds empathy and personal development. And you’ll have the chance to make a new group of friends you’ll have for the rest of your life. Our volunteers talk about how the people they meet on board become lifelong friends because of the unique connection they create.

Volunteering on board one of our hospital ships also bolsters professional skills. Mercy Ships provides a wide variety of volunteer opportunities, allowing you to apply and further develop your skills or even acquire new ones.

Volunteering with us opens doors to a global network of individuals united by the common goal of making a difference. This network is invaluable for future collaborations, career opportunities, and personal development.

Volunteering with Mercy Ships is a chance to be part of an inspiring cause and an opportunity for personal and professional growth. Begin your volunteering journey today and discover the remarkable rewards it brings.

What kind of volunteers does Mercy Ships need? 

Volunteers are the heartbeat of our mission of hope and healing. On board our two hospital ships, our volunteers ensure that those in need can find the healing they need through free, safe surgical care. 

Our volunteer needs run the gamut. We are constantly in need of volunteers in various areas, including medical professionals like doctors, nurses, surgeons, and dentists, and non-medical volunteers such as cooks, engineers, teachers, and crew members. It’s truly one of the most unique medical missions you can find.

By volunteering with Mercy Ships, you can profoundly impact the lives of the most vulnerable in Africa. Whether providing medical care, teaching, or serving in other capacities, volunteers offer their time and skills to bring hope and healing to communities.

How to Become a Mercy Ships Volunteer

Volunteering with Mercy Ships is a life-changing experience. If you’re passionate about making a difference and contributing to our mission of bringing hope and healing to the world’s most underserved, here’s how you can get involved:

Start your Volunteer Application:

To start your Mercy Ships volunteer journey, you’ll need to complete our application process. This includes filling out an application form, providing references, and participating in an interview. We have specific volunteer requirements, such as a minimum age limit and specific skills or qualifications for certain roles. You can go here to read all our FAQ’s.

Preparing for Your Volunteer Experience:

Once you’re accepted as a volunteer, it’s time to start preparing yourself for the upcoming journey. This may involve getting necessary vaccinations, securing travel insurance, and managing your affairs while away. We provide resources and guidance to help you navigate this preparation phase. We’ll make sure you are well-equipped for your time on board.

Fundraising and Financial Support:

While volunteering with Mercy Ships is a fulfilling opportunity, it does involve some financial responsibilities. As a volunteer, you need to cover your expenses, such as travel costs, accommodation, and meals. However, we provide the resources and tools to help you fundraise for your time on board. Our recruiting team will be with you every step of the way.

Becoming a Mercy Ships volunteer is a profound way to contribute to our mission. We are committed to supporting you throughout the entire process, from the application stage to your time on board. Visit our website to learn more and start your journey towards making a lasting impact on those who need it most.

What does the Bible say about volunteering? 

We are a Christian organization. Our mission of hope and healing is driven by our vision to follow the 2,000 year-old model of Jesus.

We believe volunteering is a way to share His love with those around us. We lean into what the Bible encourages us multiple times to look beyond ourselves and serve those in need. 

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love, serve one another.” — Galatians 5:13

“‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, I was a stranger, and you welcomed me, I was naked, and you clothed me, I was sick, and you visited me, I was in prison, and you came to me.'” — Matthew 25:35-36

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” — 1 Peter 4:10

“’Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?’And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do the same.’” Luke 10:36-37

As Christians, we are called to serve and volunteer for many reasons: 

Following the Example of Jesus: Jesus devoted his life to serving others, teaching his disciples to follow his example. Volunteering allows Christians to emulate Jesus’ selfless love and compassion by meeting the needs of others.

Expressing Gratitude: Christians believe God has blessed them with gifts, talents, and resources. Volunteering is a way to express gratitude for these blessings by using them to serve others and positively impact the world.

Living Out the Gospel: Volunteering is an opportunity to live out the teachings of the Gospel, which emphasize love, mercy, and justice. By serving others, Christians demonstrate their commitment to spreading the message of God’s love and salvation.

Building Community: Volunteering fosters a sense of community and fellowship among believers. It provides opportunities for Christians to come together, work towards common goals, and support one another in serving others.

Fulfilling the Great Commission: Christians are called to share the Good News of Jesus and make disciples of all nations. Volunteering allows believers to demonstrate Jesus’ love in tangible ways and create opportunities to share their faith with others.

Caring for the Vulnerable: The Bible teaches that Christians have a responsibility to care for the vulnerable, including the poor, sick, and marginalized. Volunteering provides a means to address social injustice and alleviate suffering in the world.

Growing in Faith: Volunteering challenges Christians to step out of their comfort zones, develop empathy, and grow in their faith. It strengthens their relationship with God as they trust Him to guide and empower them in their service to others.

Volunteering is not just a good deed but a fundamental aspect of Christian discipleship. It reflects the values and teachings of Jesus Christ and provides believers with opportunities to make a positive difference in the lives of others while deepening their faith journey.

Come On Board! 

Now that you know (a lot) more about volunteering and why we do what we do, are you ready to make a difference by volunteering with Mercy Ships? We have numerous positions available for those eager to contribute. Whether you have medical expertise, technical skills, or simply a desire to serve, there are ample opportunities to get involved.

You can find the position for you and start your volunteer application here. We promise it will be a life-changing experience.

We look forward to welcoming you on board!