Achi Kushnir had a revelation while taking some time off to volunteer with Mercy Ships.
“I was contemplating a lot about my path so far, and where I want to go from here,” he said. “I don’t want this to be a sabbatical year; I want this to be my real path from now onwards.”
Achi decided to serve on board the Global Mercy® as a biomedical technician, after working the last 15 years in medical engineering. He heard about Mercy Ships from a client who had volunteered on board. Just like his client, who served as a surgeon, Achi had a skillset that was desperately needed on the hospital ship.
“In the past five years, I’ve been working in the medical device industry, mainly training doctors in operating theatres how to use innovative technology from Israel to treat glaucoma,” he said.
Originally from Israel, Achi gained his degree in biomedical engineering at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, where he spent his first years working in the field.
“Studying medical engineering was a perfect marriage between the medical world and engineering. The university degree was rich in its content and in the diversity of students from different nationalities and cultures, but above all in its programs that provided opportunities for students to create impact in developing countries whilst still being a student.”
“That’s how I found myself as a founding member of the university’s Engineers Without Borders chapter and later on in my final year had a life-changing experience improving health infrastructure in remote villages in Papua New Guinea.”
“That experience had a profound impact on my personal and professional life and without any doubt contributed to why I have been with Mercy Ships.”
Achi initially came on board for two weeks in January 2022, when the Global Mercy hospital ship was in Belgium. The experience exceeded his expectations. In February he traveled to Ukraine to offer his services there, but soon he was back on board the Global Mercy for a longer three-month commitment.
‘More in Common than Apart’
Although Mercy Ships is a Christian organisation, it accepts volunteers from all faiths and backgrounds. Achi is the first practicing Jew to serve on the Global Mercy.
“It’s a great honour and I’ve been really so well received here,” he said. “Maybe I could be the first one who opened the door for others to come.”
Achi said he was “very emotional” when he arrived, thanks to the warm and sincere welcome he received from this crew of different faiths.
“There’s so much more in common than apart in our religions,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re all humans.”
His fellow crewmembers have been especially interested in his Israeli roots. Achi is fluent in Hebrew, and he used that skill to give the crew a gift: he read original Biblical passages aloud during Easter events.
Just like his diverse group of colleagues, Achi was drawn to Mercy Ships and the brand-new Global Mercy by a shared mission.
“Its focus is to help and serve others and make an impact and a difference in people’s lives,” he said. “This is something very unique and I’m very proud to be part of this.”
An Exciting Time on Board
During this historic moment in Mercy Ships history, Achi has been impressed by the community he’s found on board the Global Mercy.
“There is nothing like that outside in the world,” he said.
He feels that his new colleagues and housemates are making him a better person.
“It’s really inspiring and empowering to be surrounded by so many people that have risked a lot and sacrificed to come here,” he said. “They have a goal and a pure mission to help others.”
Achi’s community includes everyone from the hospital to housekeeping to reception.
“Having all these conversations, and getting to know these people, it definitely changes you in a lot of ways,” he said.
Achi serves in the hospital as a biomedical technician. Even with his background in the profession, serving on the world’s largest civilian hospital ship is a new experience.
“There are so many challenges and other aspects involved because it’s a ship and it will spend most of its time in developing countries,” he said. “This requires planning, management, maintenance and installation of the equipment in a different way we are used to in our regular hospitals – these are all aspects I’m focusing on.”
Achi rejoined the ship in the Canary Islands and was on her first sail to Africa for a formal inauguration in Senegal. The new vessel will double the organisation’s capacity for hope and healing, and is expected to facilitate more than 150,000 surgeries over her 50-year lifespan.
“It’s really quite an exciting time,” said Achi. “This is the final stage of planning and executing what is needed just before the hospital will be operational for patients.”
Biomedical engineers, like many other technical positions on board, are often a critical need. Without vital roles like this one, Mercy Ships would not be able to continue bringing hope and healing to those who need it most. If you or someone you know is interested in sharing your professional and personal skills, learn more today at mercyships.org.au/volunteer