Mercy Ships floating hospitals, the Africa Mercy and Global Mercy, are the largest charity-run hospital ships in the world. Operating two ships means we rely heavily on the seafarers who use their time and skills to transform the lives of thousands who walk up our gangway. In the last year, the pandemic has exposed the fragility of healthcare systems and has made us even more determined to increase access to care in the continent of Africa. We are excited to double our impact with our new ship, the Global Mercy, sailing to West Africa in 2022. Take a look at some of our seafarers who are changing the narrative of global surgery today.
“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 on board for lunch.
“I was absolutely stunned by the quality of the crew and atmosphere on board,” 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 our newest ship, the Global 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.”
Esther knew she wanted to be a seafarer since a teenager. “The idea of being out at sea and feeling the elements in combination with the technical profession seemed appealing. I grew up in a landlocked region. I sailed for 6 months around the world and continued from there. I don’t regret it at all.”
When Esther was studying in 2010, one of her classmates wanted to volunteer with Mercy Ships, and it stayed with her throughout her career. Finally, in 2021, she decided to volunteer as Chief Officer. “Being a mariner, I’ve seen a bit of the inequality of the world. My life is so privileged – education, healthcare, money, all things I never had to worry about. I really like the motivation behind Mercy Ships.”
When talking about her time on board, Esther calls working with an international team a unique and positive experience. “The mindset here impresses me – the way all different crewmembers work together and support each other. The word teamwork gets a different meaning.”
Joe Biney is from Ghana and has been volunteering with Mercy Ships since 1991. He volunteers on board 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 programs. 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 on board 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.”
Rodrigo Silva is our Chief Officer of the Global Mercy. 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. 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.”
For many people living in sub-Saharan Africa, the healthcare landscape is even more dire than it was last year, 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.
Yet, we can’t do what we do without all our seafarers who run our ships. Are you ready to use your skills to renew hope and transform lives? Mercy Ships needs volunteers like you to power our ships as we prepare to double the impact with two ships 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 mercyships.org.au/volunteer