After 41 years in the maritime industry, most of Irik Mallie’s colleagues are beginning to retire. But this Dutch Canadian chief engineer isn’t getting ready to close his working chapter — he’s starting a whole new one.
It was a phone call several years ago that started Irik’s journey with Mercy Ships, asking if he would be willing to serve as chief engineer onboard our new ship, the Global Mercy. At the time, the ship was under construction and not yet ready to sail. Irik and his wife, Cathy, thought about the commitment — and soon decided it was the right next step for their family.
“It’s a real honor to be asked to sail with the Global Mercy. I didn’t expect it — when I got the call, it was an overwhelming thought,” he shared.
Even after decades in the industry, Irik had never sailed on a brand-new ship before. It was an exciting prospect, but one that also posed a unique challenge.
“Normally, after this many years, you’re going into retirement and life starts to ease back,” Irik shared. “For me, it’s just the opposite. I’ve got to hone my skills and go right back into learning everything. I feel like I’m an apprentice again!”
It’s no surprise that a new ship means new systems, values, processes — and a whole new learning curve along with it. Fortunately, Irik is embracing the challenge.
Irik has been volunteering with Mercy Ships for more than 10 years. He and Cathy — a palliative care nurse — had always known they wanted to be involved in humanitarian work but were focused on raising their four children while Irik worked for a ferry company. Once their youngest child graduated from high school, they felt the timing was finally right for them to leave home and begin volunteering. Their first service onboard a Mercy Ship was in 2009, when both Irik and Cathy used their different skills to pour into the community onboard. In 2018, they took the plunge from short-term trips with Mercy Ships and became permanent volunteers onboard.
Irik and Cathy are in the unique position of experiencing two different sides of our floating hospitals. In the marine engineering department, Irik is a part of keeping the ship afloat, while his wife works directly with the patients we serve. No matter where they’re serving, Irik is confident that every single volunteer onboard plays a vital role, saying,
“Everybody has their own piece of the puzzle that is Mercy Ships. It doesn’t matter if it’s a chief engineer, a nurse, a doctor, or someone working in the galley — we all play our part. If one piece is missing, the puzzle isn’t complete.”
Thanks to his decades of experience in his industry, Irik has much to offer the crew onboard. Passionate about his beliefs, he calls himself a spiritual leader in the engineering department, saying, “I take it very seriously. At the end of the day, I hope I’ve served and people around me can say ‘this man worked for the glory of God.’ I want to be a light in a dark world, just like our ships are a light of hope.”
When Irik returns home to Canada to visit with family or friends, he says he’s often asked why he volunteers. People ask him, “What is your driving force?” Irik’s answer is simple and poignant:
“When you come onboard and you see the work being done with the patients, and you see them walk off the gangway completely changed … that is our reward. It’s the driving force for people who want to volunteer. You don’t do it for yourself, you do it because you want to make a difference in the world.”
Ready to make your mark?
Whether you’re nearing retirement or just starting out in your career; whether you’ve got a few weeks to spare or are looking to serve for years; no matter what skills you bring, there is a place for you onboard! Visit www.mercyships.org/makeyourmark for more information.