Mercy Ships floating hospital, the Africa Mercy, is the largest charity-run hospital ship in the world. Seafarers are the key workers who keep our ships operational and use their skills to deliver humanitarian development and transform thousands of lives each year.
On International Day of the Seafarer, we honour seafarers everywhere and highlight four of our incredible marine volunteers who power our ships.
Rodrigo Silva is our Chief Officer. Originally from Brazil, Rodrigo oversees the deck’s maintenance, cargo loading operations, treatment of freshwater, and sailing. He also leads the fire teams, amongst many other things.
“One of the highlights of volunteering with Mercy Ships is that I can do what I know how to do and have my family with me. One of the cornerstones of seafaring life is that we are away and missing the things that are happening back home with the kids, with schooling, and with your spouse. Being onboard with Mercy Ships is different; you’re able to be together. So you can work and, at the end of the day, walk back to your cabin and see your family. It’s unbelievably good.”
When asked if he would recommend working at Mercy Ships to other seafarers, Rodrigo, without hesitation, said, “I would encourage seafarers out there to come. You can expect an inviting work environment and the satisfaction of seeing your work making a real difference in the lives of the patients we serve.”
Joe Biney is from Ghana and has been volunteering with Mercy Ships since 1991. He volunteers onboard with his family. Joe is currently our Third Engineer and he and his team of engineers power the Africa Mercy from the Engine Room. Seafarers like Joe play a major part in delivering Mercy Ships medical capacity building and free surgery programmes. Without the generators in the Engine Room, there would be no lighting for the hospital, no power for the galley, and no air conditioning keeping the ship cool.
“With Mercy Ships, you are not alone. You have support. On a commercial ship, you may be alone, but onboard with Mercy Ships, people are standing with you. These people become your brothers and sisters, they become your friends. In the Engine Room, we work as a team. We have one goal that we are all working to achieve—to make sure people get help… It is a privilege and it is an opportunity and it is an honour to serve with Mercy Ships.”
“This is where I am supposed to be. There is no question about that.”
Captain Taylor Perez was introduced to Mercy Ships in 1984 when his ship stopped in Hawaii to refuel on its way from the States to Asia. Our previous ship, the Anastasis, was docked nearby and some of the crew invited him onboard for lunch.
“I was absolutely stunned by the quality of the crew and atmosphere onboard,” he said. “They were very impressive, and it was a very professional organisation.”
After that meeting, Perez began to volunteer with Mercy Ships during his time off. Since then, he has captained every single one of the Mercy Ships fleet at one time or another and is now Captain of the current flagship, the Africa Mercy.
“The ship is the hospital. You can’t have the hospital without the ship. The doctors and nurses, who do such an amazing job, could not do it without the ship. The ship can’t operate without its mariners… We don’t just need doctors and nurses, we need Deck Officers, Engine Ratings, ABs, Motormen, Engineers as well as carpenters, electricians and other professionals who can take the time to see something different and be part of something with a big impact.”
Ruben Galama worked as a mechanical engineer in The Netherlands, prior to joining the Mercy Ships Engineering Department. He is currently working as an HVAC technician within the hotel engineering department.
“I originally signed up for one year and that was three and a half years ago! I don’t have any medical skills, but I do have the skills to help keep the ship operational and the hospital running so patients can get the treatment they need. Everyone onboard is a cog in the overall system and contributes towards the Africa Mercy achieving her goals of bringing hope and healing. Even though we are not directly involved with the patients, we are all a part of the team that makes this happen. It’s rewarding to be able to use my skills to make a difference.”
Our world looks very different today than it did this time last year. We are aware, now more than ever, of the healthcare fragility that many nations face. For many people living in sub-Saharan Africa, the healthcare landscape is even more dire, with many lacking access to basic medical and surgical care. This is why Mercy Ships exists—to strengthen healthcare systems through training and mentoring whilst reducing the strain on those systems through free, life-changing surgery.
Mercy Ships needs volunteers like you to power our ships as we prepare to return to Africa to help rebuild and strengthen healthcare systems. We need professional mariners who want to see something different and be part of the Mercy Ships mission of providing access to safe, timely healthcare.
To find out more and take the first steps on your journey to Africa with Mercy Ships, go to https://apply.mercyships.org