“Skilled or unskilled, medical professional or not, Mercy Ships has a role for everyone with the right calling.”
If you thought Mercy Ships only recruits volunteers with medical qualifications, meet Walter Pretorius. Originally an accountant, he held a series of senior IT positions in South Africa and abroad before joining Mercy Ships in October 2013. Among other roles, he is now part of a team managing some exciting new projects.
Do you ever miss the corporate ladder?
No. I started my career with Eskom in South Africa and moved to the UK in 2002, where I ended up in the pharmaceutical sector. By 2012, I knew I wanted out of the corporate world. I took a year’s sabbatical and never went back.
Can you talk about some of your roles with Mercy Ships?
I joined as IT Manager in October 2013, when the Africa Mercy was in Congo, and stayed on board when we went to Madagascar. After 2½ years on the ship, I was offered a role at Mercy Ships’ campus in Texas to be a part of a team responsible for various new projects. As well as being involved with these projects, I am also assisting with the development of a new in-house supply management system.
My greatest surprise is how much I have gained spiritually from the Mercy Ships experience. In fact, I have been blown away by the level of spiritual support I have received from our community. The personal development opportunities have been as fantastic as the professional development opportunities. Another highlight is actually seeing the visible difference that we are making to people’s lives.
You need to flexible when it comes to living arrangements on board. For example, I started in a three-bunk cabin when I joined before progressing to my own cabin. For South African men of my age and background, it can feel rather like doing national service all over again!
Finding a sustainable source of financial support can also be a challenge. Many people on board depend on their church communities back home to support them while they are away volunteering. With so many good causes to support in South Africa, finding funds is not always easy.
Do you have a final word of advice to potential volunteers?
If you’ve got a passion for doing good work that changes lives, then there’s a place for you with Mercy Ships – whatever your previous experience and skills. From surgeons and nurses to kitchen assistants and cleaners, we need people from all walks of life to fulfil our mission.