Finding Meaning as a Family

“When we went to the ship, we had an idea that we were going to serve and share our talents. But when I look back now, after two years, we’ve also gained so much from other people’s stories, lessons, and cultures.” – Guido Kortleven on volunteering with Mercy Ships.

Guido Kortleven currently works as a volunteer senior biomedical technician with Mercy Ships, along with his wife, Mariana, and their three sons. After serving for about two years on the Africa Mercy, Guido and his family are ready to start a new adventure onboard the Global Mercy.

“In my job I make sure that all the medical equipment in the hospital works safely and reliably,” Guido shared. “We are on standby if there is a technical malfunction somewhere that hinders or sometimes even halts medical work. It is up to us to get the equipment working again as quickly as possible so that the operation  is not jeopardized.”

With a high-stakes and demanding role, it’s important for Guido to focus on why his family chooses to serve onboard. Fortunately, it’s not hard to see the significance of his role.

“When the equipment stops working, the surgeries have to be canceled,” he said. “My role is in the background, which is where I prefer to be, but it’s instrumental in the vision to provide safe surgery. You can bring surgery to Africa in different ways, but we’re offering world-class surgery — and you can’t do that without biomeds.”

Of course, serving with Mercy Ships is about so much more than practicing your profession. Guido and Mariana have three young children to consider. It made leaving their home in the Netherlands more of a risk — and ultimately more rewarding.

“It’s a big step to go with your family onboard. It’s not always easy, but it’s also so good to see them in this unique environment,” Guido shared. “Where in the world would you have so many nationalities together? Most of the time, if you work on a ship, you don’t have your family with you, especially not as a biomedical technician. It makes up for the difficult moments. It’s not always easy but the beautiful moments by far outweigh the challenges.”

When Guido isn’t at work, he loves to spend time with his wife and sons, as well as the community onboard, which he calls “one big family.”

“It’s amazing to see people from different backgrounds and countries sharing the same mission. People contribute to our lives, but also to our children’s lives,” he said. “Other people have so many other ideas and give the boys new inspiration to play in new ways and build different things. It’s a mix of people who you can learn from and have fun with.”

In his free time, Guido also volunteers on the audio and video team, keeping community meetings running smoothly.

After two years and counting as a volunteer, Guido has a simple message to anyone considering joining his family onboard, saying,

“If you keep giving reasons not to do it, you’ll never come onboard. I had plenty of reasons not to do it. We’ve gone through it all. I was five months into a new job when I was asked by Mercy Ships to come and volunteer — it was a good reason not to do it. I have young children, so another reason not to do it. But I don’t regret my choice to go onboard. We’ve faced many excuses, but we have no regrets. Just jump. Make that choice.”

At Mercy Ships, you share both your personal and professional skills to make a difference and change lives. Volunteering onboard our hospital ships is a unique experience — with a one-of-a-kind community.

We are looking for people like you to join us. With 150 different positions on board, there is no shortage of ways to use your skills.
Ready to make your mark? Visit mercyships.org/makeyourmark.