International Women’s Day (#IWD) was founded in 1975 by the United Nations in support of “women’s rights and international peace” and is a day “to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women, who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.” (cite).

Mercy Ships celebrates this important day by honoring the skill, strength, and determination of the thousands of incredible women throughout our 40+ year history who have played extraordinary roles in our mission to deliver hope and healing. We wouldn’t be here without you — thank you! 

To commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day, we want to shine a light on the impactful role of three women who have served onboard behind the scenes and impacted lives on a daily basis. It takes volunteers from a myriad of different backgrounds to make our mission possible.

Rahel Ballentin (DEU), Third Officer

As a child, Rahel Ballentin spent her summers onboard a historic wooden missionary ship that traveled around the Baltic Sea. At just 12 years old, a determined Rahel dreamed of becoming a seafarer, and she’s been working hard to make that dream a reality ever since.

Why did you choose to volunteer with Mercy Ships Rahel?

“I want to help where I actually can help. I saw online what Mercy Ships does — that they help people long-term. I have now finished my studies and wanted to do work, not for myself, but for other people.”

 

How is volunteering with Mercy Ships different from other places you’ve worked?

“The people are different and the approach here is different. For example, the last Chief Officer was busy all day, yet he still stopped for anyone who had a question, regardless of its importance. And that’s the approach I want to practice… to be that person who wants to help people. It’s easy to see that the people who are here, are here to help.” 

Veera Kuosmanen (FIN), Deck Cadet

How does it feel to work in a male-dominated field?

“You stand out for sure. I’m not bothered about it. It has been surprisingly easy. I really feel like times are changing. It’s really nice to see all these girls appearing [in this field]. I’m not here to prove a point. If you can do your job, it really doesn’t matter what your gender is.”

 

How is volunteering with Mercy Ships different from other places you’ve worked?

“It’s been so nice to come on a ship where everyone is so kind and it’s not all about work, work, work; it’s also about love and compassion and being the better person, and helping others. It’s a very good place to learn, too, because people take the time to teach you here. Sometimes when we’re training on [other] vessels, there’s no interest from anyone or time to give you teaching and care. Working for Mercy Ships has been very healing and a good experience. I feel stronger and have less self-doubt. You can never really escape self-doubt, especially in the beginning when you’re starting to learn, but it’s really taken a lot of that away.”

How do all the volunteer positions work together?

“Everybody is a part of it. You need every single person in order for the ship to work. The galley is just as important as the engine room and the bridge and the captain and everything… one part doesn’t work without the other. My work is not a straightforward impact, but it makes me very proud to be a part of this work.”

Martina Thowsen (SWE), Able Seaman

How is volunteering with Mercy Ships different from other places you’ve worked?

“The most touching part for me is that the community is respectful and understanding; people care about each other because they all have a big heart and are willing to be helpful. They chose to come here as a volunteer to help the people in need.”

 

What’s unique about a Mercy Ship?

“As an Able Seaman, what I can do here is to help in the deck department to keep [the ship] running smoothly. We need more people from different professional areas onboard, because this is not just a hospital; everyone can contribute in one way or another and work together.”

How has volunteering with Mercy Ships impacted your life?

“The biggest impact Mercy Ships has had on my life is working with people from different countries, because I can learn the different cultures and the abundant knowledge from them. Even though we are from different countries, we all have the same goal, which is to make the world a better place to live.”

This International Women’s Day, we honor the acts of service and courage of thousands of incredible women from around the world like Rahel, Veera, and Martina. Mercy Ships wouldn’t be here without you — thank you!

To learn more about serving with Mercy Ships, please visit opportunities.mercyships.org to find your place onboard.