Upon arrival, you will embark on board, be given an ID badge and shown to your cabin where you will find your Crew Welcome Booklet, which explains some of the ship’s policies, etc. Within 24 hours of your arrival, you will be given a complete tour of the Africa Mercy. Please expect to attend the following meetings:
- Meet and Greet with Hospitality. As soon as you embark the vessel, our Reception and Hospitality Teams will welcome you aboard with light refreshments, create your ship I.D. badge, and help you complete your required embarkation paperwork.
- New Crew Orientation. On your first Monday morning, our HR team will give you a general orientation to ship life on board the Africa Mercy, including times and locations of our crew services and Community Meetings.
- Basic Familiarization—Safety and Security. At this meeting, the Safety Officer will explain the safety regulations and emergency procedures on the Africa Mercy. The Ship Security Officer will also give you a security briefing for the ship and the country in which the ship is docked.
Services on Board
Laundry: We have a large Laundry Room on board with up to ten washers and dryers. There is no charge to use these machines. Laundry soap can be purchased at the Convenience Store (Pier 99).
Library: There is a well-stocked Library on board giving you access to study references, reading material, DVD’s, games, and magazines.
Hair Salon: We have a small hair salon on board which offers haircuts, perms, colourings, and other services at little to no charge to crew.
There is a Starbucks™ Café on board that is open at set hours weekdays and Saturdays.
Our Crew Clinic and Crew Dental Clinic are available for those who become ill or are feeling poorly. Please note that more serious issues may have to be taken care of in your home countries. Due to legal and liability issues, Mercy Ships does not perform elective surgery for crew. We do have a limited pharmacy on board if you need to be prescribed medicine.
Other Services and facilities on board include:
- Small Gym
- Internet Café
- Crew Bank
- Wireless Internet (WIFI)
- Post Office
- Convenience Store (Pier 99)
- Snack Bar
- Crew Galley
- Swimming pool
Work & Play
All crew members (except primary caregivers and children of our long term crew) are expected to work an average of 45 hours per week. In order to run the ship and hospital effectively, each department has different work schedules and days off. Your work schedule will be communicated to you upon arrival.
Depending on your position, this may include some nights and weekends. In addition, due to the ever-changing staffing levels and field service rotations, crew may be reassigned to temporarily fill roles in other departments if needed.
Time off / free time
In addition to the weekend and regular days off during the week, Mercy Ships has scheduled a three-day weekend every six weeks to allow our crew extra time off from work. During these three-day weekends, not everyone will have all three days “off,” but we do our best only to focus on essential business duties only.
During their time off from work, crew typically spend their time going out with friends met on board, resting, catching up on correspondence, exercising, doing their laundry, or visiting one of our ministry sites. We also have a wonderful Social Activities Coordinator who plans enjoyable and entertaining events for our crew.
Personal time off (PTO) and leave of absence (LOA)
Crew members serving three months or more accrue PTO at a rate depending on their length of commitment and position.
PTO and LOA should be requested in advance and coordinated with each employee’s department head. Please note: We depend on each crew member to carry out their role on the team for the agreed upon dates and cannot function efficiently if people ask to be released early, except for an unforeseen emergency.
Crew will be living and working in a community of faith with multiple denominations of the Christian faith from many different cultures. All of our crew members are expected to attend departmental and community meetings, which in many cases could include some Christian devotional practice, such as music, prayer, or Bible reference, along with ordinary business announcements and updates or changes in the ship’s program. Prayer and worship is often also integrated into the workplace and general social environment of the ship. This community environment is what makes Mercy Ships unique.
While we encourage all crew to maintain their own personal spiritual health while serving with us, there are many opportunities to enrich it while on board. In addition to our community gatherings and departmental devotionals, we offer all crew the option to join small groups, Bible studies, prayer meetings, and other activities.
Except for special events, we do not offer church services on Sunday mornings. This is to allow crew to attend local churches. We do have an informal service on board on Sunday evenings, which is led by our Chaplaincy team and allows those who could not get off the ship a chance to worship.
Community of Faith
What is a Community of Faith? A Community of Faith (COF) is a group of individuals who choose to live, work, and worship together in community, sacrificially serving common values and purposes.
Mercy Ships follows the 2000-year-old model of Jesus, bringing hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor. Shorter-term volunteers (those on board for less than 1 year) come to serve, learn, and grow alongside the long-term “community of faith” that constitutes the core of life on a Mercy Ship.
Living and serving in close community and working cross-culturally in host nations bring great joys and fulfillment, as well as frustrations and disappointments.
All who serve at Mercy Ships locations worldwide are expected to:
- Respect Mercy Ships Core Values in their service and employment.
- Love God,
- Love and serve others,
- Be people of integrity, and
- Be people of excellence in all we say and do.
- Abide by the Mercy Ships Code of Conduct.
In keeping in conformity with Mercy Ships Core Values, all are expected to exercise self-control and abide by the Code of Conduct, as well as additional instructions, prohibitions, and guidelines pertaining to life on a Mercy Ship.
It is the goal of Mercy Ships to see all crew who join us for whatever length of time grow in their faith, love, character, skills and competence.
Ships’ Code of Conduct
Mercy Ships is an international faith-based charity whose foundation rests on an integrated biblical worldview of service to others and a personal relationship with Jesus. As such, all employees and volunteers (staff) are expected to respect these spiritual values and in no case undermine the values directly or indirectly in their interactions with others.
The purpose of the following Code of Conduct is to ensure all staff’s safety as well as protect the reputation of both Mercy Ships and our Staff. The following is not intended to be “all inclusive”. All staff are expected to abide by this Code of Conduct. Violation of the Code of Conduct could result in dismissal.
Alcohol & Drug Abuse
For the health and safety of our Staff and volunteers, Mercy Ships has adopted an alcohol-free environment on all ships and operating locations. When appropriate, exceptions may be made for special occasions and/or events by the local Director.
While serving aboard the Africa Mercy, Mercy Ships crew are not to visit bars, nightclubs, discos or similar establishments as many Christians, members of the Islamic community and the general populace in Africa do not view these establishments in a positive light.
While ashore at a restaurant having a meal, consuming beer or wine in moderation is generally acceptable. Excessive drinking will not be tolerated and crew members suspected of being intoxicated will be challenged to take a breathalyzer test. Failure to cooperate will result in dismissal. Operating a Mercy Ships vehicle is a serious responsibility and therefore no alcohol is to be consumed prior to driving.
Mercy Ships is a drug-free organization and has a zero-tolerance policy relating to the possession and/or abuse of drugs, including prescription drugs.
Staff and volunteers are not to engage in sexual activity outside of legal marriage between husband and wife. Additionally, pornography is unacceptable in all forms, including internet.
In a desire to honor all crew, a crew member is not allowed to meet in a cabin alone with someone of the opposite sex who is not their spouse after 10PM. A man and woman who are not married should not travel alone together overnight or share a hotel room, nor should a group of men and women share a hotel room. Although these practices are considered acceptable in some Western nations, in many cultures such behavior is closely associated with sexual immorality.
Mercy Ships has a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual harassment (both verbal and physical).
Fighting or attempting bodily harm or injury will not be tolerated.
Betting and gambling
Betting and gambling for individual monetary gain on Mercy Ships premises is strictly prohibited.
Modest apparel is essential to community life. All staff and crew are required to honor each other in their choice of attire. Additionally, the ship has specific dress code requirements depending on the location. See “Dress Code” below for more detail.
All Mercy Ships facilities are tobacco-free and electronic cigarette free.
During your time with us you will have many opportunities to meet together with other staff for community, small group and other meetings and prayer and devotion times. Although these meetings are not mandatory, you are strongly encouraged to attend. Your attendance is an important way for you to stay informed as well as stay integrated into the community.
There may be meetings scheduled that are mandatory. In this case, your attendance would be required.
Other offenses which will lead to discipline, including possible dismissal are:
- Destroying or defacing Mercy Ships property
- Unauthorized use of Mercy Ships property, finances, telephones, or other communication equipment
- Theft or dishonesty
- Violation of safety rules or common safety practices
- Misuse of confidential information
Continual application of the Code of Conduct
There is no such thing as “time off” from the Code of Conduct. Should you observe a fellow crew member acting contrary to our Core Values, please follow the principles that Jesus taught. Following Matthew 18:15-17, lovingly confront the fellow crew member encouraging them to observe Mercy Ships’ values. Should the loving confrontation be ignored or discarded, ask someone from the Chaplain’s Department to accompany you with a second approach.
The clothes we wear and the way we look communicate a message. Recognizing that our crew members come from over 40 nations and we are guests within the culture of our host nation, we re-evaluate our dress code in each port in an effort to be as culturally honoring as possible amongst the broadest number of people. We thank you in advance for your compliance and willingness to embrace this code while on board.
This AFM dress code applies to all crew and guests who are 13 years or older.
For official functions and business meetings:
- Knees should be covered for both men and women
- Women can wear slacks or trousers as part of a uniform or western business suit, otherwise a dress or skirt that covers the knees (even when seated) should be worn. No low necklines or showing of skin between trousers and top, and no tops with spaghetti straps
- Men need to wear slacks and trousers, shirt and tie or business suit with tie
- Dress shoes must be worn; no flip flops
- Underwear should not be showing (men or women)
As above, but men do not need to wear a tie or business suit
Going ashore, patient interaction, or in the main reception area on board:
- Knees should be covered for both men and women
- For women, no low necklines or showing of skin between trousers and top, and no tops with spaghetti straps
- Women may wear leggings as long as they are worn with a long t-shirt or dress reaching to mid-thigh or longer
- Underwear should not be showing (men or women)
On board the vessel:
Same as above, except:
- Shorts that are mid-thigh or longer may be worn on the ship outside of business hours (0800-1700) except in reception, during patient interaction or when official functions are taking place onboard
- Footwear must be worn at all times unless in your cabin or at the pool
- Sporting activities ONBOARD: Clothing used for sports such as aerobics can be tighter-fitting than allowed for normal wear.
- Sporting activities ASHORE: Clothing for sports ashore such as running/Frisbee/soccer should be looser-fitting. Shorts should be mid-thigh or longer (basketball style). Lycra / spandex or other form-fitting clothing is NOT appropriate.
- Ladies – must be a one-piece or a modest ‘tankini’: no high-cut legs and no visible skin between the top and bottom
- Men – boxer or shorts-style swim trunks are required. No tight-fitted swimwear.
Some positions on board require a uniform; if you are unsure if this is applicable to you, please confirm with your Placement Facilitator.
Reception, Purser, and Hospitality:
- Men: White uniform shirt, black dress trousers, and black dress shoes
- Women: White uniform shirt, black dress trousers or black skirt that falls below the knee, and black dress shoes
- Crew serving two or more years should have a white uniform shirt with epaulets
Those involved in direct patient care wear scrubs when working. A selection will be available on the ship, but some choose to bring their own from home. Those who wish to use the scrubs that Mercy Ships provides do not have to launder the scrubs worn. There is also a “Crazy Scrub” event on Fridays, and all medical staff are encouraged to wear patterned, or “crazy” scrubs. These would need to be brought from home.
Deck and Engineering:
- Steel-toed boots or shoes
- Officers should have at least one pair of khaki trousers and khaki shirt with epaulets for general work and “on duty” days
- Two pairs of coveralls (optional for Deck Officers)
Galley and Dining Room:
- Loose-fitting, comfortable clothes – a uniform shirt and trousers will be provided for you. You should bring shirts that you are wearing under your uniform, or to wear to work before you change into your uniform. If you choose not to use the issued trousers, you are welcome to bring your own. They should be ankle-length.
- Hat or cap – will be provided for you.
- Non-slip shoes
The approved non-slip vender is “Shoes for Crews”. An individual may purchase any shoe they wish from Shoes for Crews, except shoes with holes in the top.
Overshoes are available if needed, however; we cannot accommodate those with wide-sizes, and have a limited selection.
Please note: Your clothes and shoes are likely to get dirty, so bring things you don’t mind damaging (old t-shirts, comfortable trousers, etc.). Also remember that the galley area will get hot as you work throughout the day.
The Africa Mercy is a state-of-the-art modern hospital. It is also a small, international city and home to 450 crew members from over 35 nations.
Housing is our biggest challenge on board. Single crew will most likely be in a multi-berth (with 6, 8, or 10 beds) cabin, most of which do not have a window or porthole. Most cabins have bathrooms and are furnished with bunk beds, a small closet for each person, and access to the wireless Internet.
Housing assignments are based on the volunteer’s position & subsequent length of commitment to their position. We do our best to facilitate special needs, but every person is encouraged to rise to the challenge of living in a small space with people they do not know from many different countries, cultures, and sleeping habits.
Cabins can be decorated and personalized by hanging pictures and other items using magnets.
Storage space is limited for clothing and luggage. You will have one small closet (approximately 20 inches/.5 meters wide) and one drawer. Please bring a duffel bag, which is much easier to stow than a suitcase.
Electricity on board is 220 volts/50Hz, and all cabins are fitted with British style three-prong electrical outlets. Some electronics (including most laptops) come with dual voltage power supplies and does not need a transformer. Any appliance that does not already have a British plug attached will require an adaptor, which can be purchased on board or brought from home.
Nutritious meals are served in our dining room on board three times per day on weekdays. Breakfast and an evening meal are served on the weekends, with food set out for you to take for your lunch meal during breakfast. It is helpful to either buy or bring a plastic food container to store your lunch on the weekends. The menu is set by our Food Services Manager and is based on a planned 8-week rolling schedule.
Though we strive to offer healthy meals to our crew, we unfortunately cannot cater to special diets (i.e., vegan, gluten-free, etc.). We do have a Crew Galley for personal cooking, but it is limited in space and supplies, and will require you to purchase groceries/supplies at the local market or in the Convenience Store (Pier 99).
All food and water on board is safe for consumption.
Staying in Touch
There are a variety of ways on board to stay in contact with your family and friends back home.
The Africa Mercy has a U.S. based satellite phone system. The phone number on board is +001(954)538.6110. Personal calls can be made from cabins, but are restricted to U.S. toll free phone numbers (i.e. 1-800 or 1-888). A phone card is necessary to call non-toll free numbers, and can be purchased in the Convenience Store (Pier 99).
Mobile/cell phones may be brought with you, but check with your service provider for network coverage/availability.
Email and Internet
The Africa Mercy is equipped with an Internet Café, though you are welcome to bring your own laptop computer as each cabin has wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi). We also have wireless access points in most areas of the ship.
Please note: the Internet connection can be very slow, so please discourage friends and family from sending large attachments. Depending on the speed of the internet, large downloads, Skype, Facetime, web cameras, and streaming videos can be restricted due to limited bandwidth.
Letters, packages, etc. will be forwarded regularly to the ship. Please advise your family and friends that it could take several weeks for mail to reach you in West Africa. If you are sent packages (or anything over 1 ounce), you will be charged $8.80/ pound ($0.55 per ounce or 28.4g). U.S. and UK postage stamps are available on board. Crew members returning home to these countries are often asked to carry mail back with them to be posted. To receive personal mail, have your letters mailed to the International Support Center (ISC) or the Dutch National Office.
Packages received by Mercy Ships will need a detailed list of all content on the outside of each parcel. Packages that do not list content are subject to inspection and/or refusal of shipment based on a suspected hazardous condition. Materials will be removed and disposed of; crew members involved will be notified of the disposition. Mercy Ships is subject to fines in excess of $250,000 if packages are not properly managed.
The following items are typically considered to be hazardous material and cannot be shipped through or by any Mercy Ships department. Items listed below do not represent a complete and exhaustive list, but only serve as a guideline to items that are typically classified hazardous.
- Household materials: bleach, ammonia, disinfectants, carpet fresheners, air fresheners, window cleaner, furniture polish, bug spray, roach and ant killer, mothballs, flea collars, drain openers, rug and upholstery cleaners, etc.
- Laundry products: laundry detergent, fabric softener, etc.
- Health and beauty products: hairspray, hair remover, fingernail polish, fingernail polish remover, hair coloring products, medications, aerosols, compressed gas of any type, waterless hand-cleaner, deodorants, perfumes, etc.
- Home/Workshop maintenance: paint, varnish, stains, oils, mouse/rat poison, enamels, paint thinners, varnishes, batteries of all types (DC & AC), etc.
If you are serving longer-term, you have the option of sending items on the Mercy Ships container. If this is applicable to you and you would like more information, please contact your Placement Facilitator.
Convenience Store (Pier 99) items
These items are typically available for purchase in our Convenience Store (Pier 99), but are subject to availability.
Personal Care Items
- Dove Personal Care Items for men and women
- Disposable razors and shaving cream
- Basic dental care products
- Lotions, sun creams, and bug spray
- Feminine hygiene products (Always, Tampax and OB)
- Hand soap and hand sanitizers
- Washing powder/laundry soap
- Tweezers, nail clippers and nail polish remover
- Chapstick brand lip balm
- Dish soap, dish sponge
- All-purpose cleaner
- Trash bags and Ziploc bags
- Hand towels
Snacks & Food
- Assorted chocolate bars and candy
- Assorted gum and mints
- Chips and crackers
- Cake and cookie mixes
- Basic baking supplies
- Sodas and juices
- Granola bars and trail mix
- Breakfast alternatives
- Homemade sweet and savoury snacks
- Magnets (for hanging items in the cabin)
- Envelopes (various sizes and paddings)
- CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R
- US Power adaptor
- Basic Computer Supplies
- Pens, pencils, tape, chalk, markers, glue sticks, crayons
- Bicycle helmets
- Water bottles
- Laundry bags
- Wrapping paper
- Various t-shirts
- Postcards, stickers and magnets
- Nalgene bottles
- Assortment of local crafts, jewelry, key-chains and bags
- Variety of jewellery and crafts made by crew members
Note: All items are subject to availability and cannot be guaranteed; we recommended you come with enough personal items for two weeks.
Ships of Mercy by Don Stephens (Founder of Mercy Ships) – Download this free digital copy
Foreign to Familiar by Sarah A. Lanier (also available in Kindle Version)
African Friends and Money Matters by David Maranz