A Front-Row Seat to Healing
As a videographer, Eugene Ampadu has always been a visual person.
So naturally, when he was considering applying to volunteer with Mercy Ships, the first thing he did was sit down and watch all the videos he could find. One of them stood out to him. It showed Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Parker examining a patient with a large tumor.
“I couldn’t help but notice the way he watched them, the way he touched them,” Eugene said. “You could see clearly his heart for them, even from the way he was interacting with them. It was so clear. And I was like, ‘Wow, I wish I had those kinds of eyes.’”
Throughout his childhood in Ghana, Eugene had heard a lot about Mercy Ships. In fact, his father has played a longtime role in the organization’s onboarding program throughout Africa, training and mentoring incoming African crewmembers.
“Over the years, he used to come home with pictures, letters, notes, from Mercy Ships,” Eugene said. “That also gave me some insight into community life and the hope and healing that Mercy Ships was bringing to the nations.”
And as Eugene watched the videos of volunteers like Dr. Parker, it became clear to him that Mercy Ships would be a part of his future, too.
“Seeing the way people were being transformed, I was like, ‘Let’s do this,’” he said.
Eugene had planned to get his master’s degree in cinematography. Instead, he applied for a two-year volunteer role with the communications team on the Africa Mercy®.
But soon afterward, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Eugene found himself waiting for two years, working as a freelance videographer in his home country of Ghana. Finally, in February 2022, Eugene stepped on board the hospital ship in Senegal.
Life on Board
Since then, the pace has been nonstop. On any given day, Eugene could be setting up the camera to interview a crewmember, meeting patients on the dock, following them through surgery, or filming their recovery.
“I get to have the front-row seat,” he said.
Eugene started his position during one of the most significant moments in Mercy Ships history: the first field service back in Africa, after two years away.
“Most of the people that I’m meeting here are also new people,” he said. “It’s a new community, you know, knowing people on a daily basis, forming communities gradually.”
Eugene is used to being a one-man-band. In the Africa Mercy communications department, he works with a group of colleagues from many different countries.
“It made me see how effective we can be when we work as a team,” he said. “It’s helped me also understand how to work with different cultures.”
Living and working in a floating community, Eugene and his fellow volunteers offer more than their professional skills. Their talents and personalities are often just as important.
One of Eugene’s special gifts is bringing people together and helping them embrace their passions, using those activities to connect and recharge. For him, this might look like playing music. It could also involve going for a run, playing soccer with colleagues, or just spending time together outside of work.
“I would describe life on board as one that has to be a give and take,” he said. “One that helps sustain you even as you give your time and service.”
‘It’s Worth It’
Eugene remembers vividly meeting the first patient who came on board. Sokhna, a young woman in her 20s who had spent her life living with a cleft lip
“She was very shy,” he said. “Not ready to express herself.”
But after she had her surgery, Eugene said she was different.
“I met her today and she’s looking so good,” he said. “She’s great. And at that moment you just realize that, yes, it’s worth it and it’s still going to be worth it to the end.”
Eugene noticed the changes when he was filming Sokhna during a postoperative appointment. She was maintaining eye contact. He gave her a nod, and she nodded back. Then, she asked if she could have some photos of herself printed.
“She’s really happy, she’s looking forward to going home, her husband will be so excited,” Eugene said. “And I told her, God bless her for allowing us to tell her story. … And she told me, God bless me too.”
Eugene put his hand on his heart as he remembered the exchange. “It was a surreal moment.”
After just a few weeks on board, that big decision to join the crew now seems like an obvious one to Eugene.
“The more I’m seeing, this isn’t giving away two years, this is like me gaining two years,” he said. “For me, it’s more like a gift.”
Do you want to Make Your Mark like Eugene? Find your place on board and learn more about becoming a part of the floating Mercy Ships community: mercyships.org/makeyourmark/