Leading Communications On Board the World’s Largest Civilian Hospital Ship
Thomas Dubourcq has found meaning in his new role as the first Communications Director on board the Global Mercy, where he now lives with his family.
In 2010, Thomas, from Norway, directed and produced a children’s documentary series called My Mercy Box. The series was all about life on the Africa Mercy®. However, Thomas’s journey with Mercy Ships began in 1991 on board the first Mercy Ship, the Anastasis.
“I was there because I was in a drama group, and we were there to perform for the people on board,” said Thomas. After this brief encounter, he kept the organization in the back of his mind until the mid-2000s, when he decided that “there was something interesting, something worthwhile showing, and something spectacular” about the work being done to convert the ship that would become the Africa Mercy into a floating hospital.
“Five years later, a Norwegian family came on board, and it became a children’s program,” he shared.
Thomas was also starting a family at the time. He and his wife Mapendo asked themselves, “Would this be something for us to do?” They ultimately decided, “It was something we would do when the kids were the right age.”
Mapendo is a biomedical engineer and hopes to volunteer in that capacity when the ship goes to Africa but is the primary caregiver to their three daughters in the meantime. Thomas leads his fellow full-time volunteers in the Global Mercy’s communications department, which serves to share the story of the new vessel with the world.
“It feels really good to be part of doing something that is made to help those who need it the most,” said Thomas about his time on board so far. “I’m not a health worker; I’m not a surgeon, so I’m happy that I can use the background I have.”
So far, the 48-year-old has overseen media visits during the Global Mercy’s equipping phase from outlets like the Associated Press and TBN, as well as royal visits from Queen Mathilde of Belgium and Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal of the United Kingdom. Thomas is especially proud of how his daughters are partaking in these experiences. He explained, “With my kids, they are now able to see what I’m doing, how I work, and get much closer to my work. It’s very meaningful.”
Comparing “families where maybe the father or the mother is just gone working a lot of the time, and there’s a disconnect,” Thomas finds it “quite beautiful” that his children’s lives have been so intertwined with his since they left Norway in September 2021 to join the ship.
“It’s going to make an impression on them. When they get older, that’s going to stay with them,” he shared.
His daughters Louise, Michelle, and Nicoline are learning English as they attend the onboard Academy. Thomas added about their two-year plan, “Our intention is that they get some values that they wouldn’t get just living in Norway by going to school in Norway and living the normal life in the bubble that society can be.”
Some of these values will come from living in Africa, which will make good on a dream of Thomas’ for his half-African children. He explained, “The thought has been there for a long time that it would be great if they could have a sense of an African upbringing as well.”
The Global Mercy will sail in May to Senegal, where it will be commissioned formally and join the Africa Mercy in field service before finishing its final stages of equipping. The Global Mercy will ultimately provide lifesaving and life-changing surgeries to people who lack basic healthcare access for years to come.
The organization’s mission of hope and healing is only possible because of volunteers like the Dubourcqs. Visit mercyships.org/makeyourmark to learn how you can join our community and Make Your Mark.