As a volunteer-based organization, it’s no secret that our crewmembers come from around the world to serve. But you might not know that our international crew aren’t the only ones sharing their skills on our hospital ships. During each 10-month field service, around 200 professionals from the current African host nation also join us onboard. These local crewmembers, whom we call “day crew,” are vital to the work we do.
They serve everywhere from communications to hospital chaplaincy, from the deck to the dining room, and of course, in our hospital. They lend their skills, translate across multiple languages, and help us form a cross-cultural bridge. Most importantly, together we’re better able to understand and respect the cultural nuances of our host nation.
In short, our local crew are our heroes!
Creating Opportunities for Growth
Many local crewmembers come with a specialized background and a specific dream in mind, while others come with open hands and discover new passions along the way. Throughout each field service, we strive to provide different learning and career development opportunities for them. For example, we provide a maritime training program onboard. Designed to train mariners early in their careers, this program gives local crew an opportunity to earn their certification and take the first steps toward a professional seafaring career.
Working with the hospital, rehabilitation, patient screening, or medical capacity building teams also gives local crew the chance to further develop their medical careers.
Meet Some of Our Incredible Local Crew
Many of the long-term volunteers on our ships started as local crew once upon a time. They may have initially planned to work onboard for just 10 months, but quickly caught the passion and decided to volunteer full-time, sometimes even sailing away from their home countries to continue bringing hope and healing with us.
Emmanuel serves onboard the Africa Mercy as an engineer.
Emmanuel first came onboard the Africa Mercy when the hospital ship visited his home country of Sierra Leone in 2011. At the time, Emmanuel was an accounting student and joined us as an assistant watchkeeper in the engine room. Two years later, Emmanuel decided to serve full-time and leave with the ship to its next ports of call — and he’s been with us ever since! Today, he serves as a fourth engineer.
“I decided to join the Africa Mercy to be a part of bringing hope and healing to my people in Africa. My experience has been an outstanding one, seeing people from different denominations come together to help rewrite stories of Africa by healing the physical and bringing hope to many hearts.”
Christel served onboard the Africa Mercy before continuing her studies in nursing.
When the Africa Mercy sailed to Christel’s home country of Cameroon in 2017, she applied to join as a translator in the patient screening team. She had a background as a nurse and was excited to combine her professional skills with the opportunity to serve people in her country. After serving 10 months as a local crew, Christel didn’t have any hesitation about joining Mercy Ships full-time. She made the leap to become a volunteer crew member and loved working on the screening team as a nurse. She spent the next year helping assess patients across Guinea to get them ready for surgery!
When Christel decided it was time to leave the ship and take the next step in advancing her career, her connection with Mercy Ships wasn’t over. Now, she’s in the U.S. studying nursing while living with another former Mercy Ships volunteer!
Marie (right) with former patient Koumba who suffered from a large goiter. Marie translated for the communications team during Koumba’s journey to healing.
Marie joined the Africa Mercy in 2018 as an interpreter for the communications team onboard — but this job wasn’t the first time Marie had encountered the Africa Mercy. When she was just 16 years old, her father fell ill with a tumor on his neck. Despite efforts to treat him at their local hospital, the tumor began to grow. The news that Mercy Ships was on its way to her country was welcomed amidst the family’s anxiety.
“I knew that it was a hospital ship full of specialists and I believed they could save my father,” said Marie. “But sadly, within a few months, he passed away before the ship was able to screen him.”
Despite her overwhelming loss, Marie knew the ship was a place of healing and the seed for her desire to be part was planted. She shared her dream saying,
“I told myself maybe one day if the ship ever returns, I might have the opportunity to help people that are suffering so they don’t have to die like my father did.”
It was six years before news emerged of the Africa Mercy returning to the port city of Conakry, Guinea. Now a successful employee in a communications agency, Marie knew straight away that her true calling was with the ship:
“I had a good position, good pay and a good boss, but when I heard the ship was coming back, I wanted to come for an interview right away,” recalled Marie. “My boss did not understand why I would leave!”
Marie’s biggest takeaway from serving on the Africa Mercy was a simple one: the community onboard. “I can now see that there are truly wonderful people in this world. Nurses here help patients forget about their sickness and give them peace.”
Find Your Place Onboard a Mercy Ship
Whether from the other side of the world or merely miles from the port of our African host nation, each volunteer brings something invaluable to our ships — their heart. As we prepare to bring two ships to serve in Africa, we’re looking to double our crew! Our local crew are a vital piece of our mission of hope and healing. Want to join our community and make your mark onboard? Find your place at mercyships.org/makeyourmark.