Irish mariner ‘fulfilled’ after life-changing voluntary post on the Africa Mercy

Cillian (centre) takes a well-earned tea break with crewmates Quinn (left)   and Vladislav (right) on the Africa Mercy.

Irish mariner ‘fulfilled’ after life-changing voluntary post on the Africa Mercy

This Volunteers’ Week, we say a huge thanks to thousands of volunteers who keep our hospital ships afloat. Here we share Cillian Ivers’ journey. A Deck Officer from Ireland, Cillian’s tireless efforts helped rebuild the iconic Africa Mercy.

Cillian Ivers, 28, was working as a Deck Officer in the offshore renewable industry. It was the end of another long shift when Cillian spotted a post on LinkedIn about Mercy Ships.

“I knew I had to get involved with this charity,”

he recalled.

“I knew this was a cause I wanted to support.”

And that was it. Cillian applied to go on sabbatical, and he gave up his salary for six months. Then he flew to South Africa to become Chief Officer of our hospital ship.

“When I first arrived, I often wondered what I’d signed up for. People thought I was crazy to give up my job for six months and there were times when I wondered if they were right! But looking back, it was one of the best experiences of my life.”

Cillian with the Africa Mercy

Cillian worked tirelessly with others to renovate the Africa Mercy hospital ship.

The Africa Mercy during refit in Durban, South Africa.

The Africa Mercy in dry dock

Cillian from Cork, who has been working at sea since he was 18, described the experience as ‘amazing’.

While on board, Cillian was involved in a major refit of the Africa Mercy. With more than 16 years of service, this vessel was in urgent need of renovation.

Our volunteer crew worked hard to restore the hospital ship with modern operating theatres, medical equipment and the latest technology. Volunteers also worked to repair the ship’s tanks, install new lifeboats and air disinfection units to stop the spread of infectious diseases.

For Cillian, working on the ship was extremely rewarding, but not without its challenges.

“We were a multi-national crew speaking in different languages, and it was extremely hot at times. I was heavily involved in the refit and it was really busy. I never got to meet any of the patients as my role was technical. But knowing that people had life-saving operations because of my work is very fulfilling.”

Cillian stayed on board the Africa Mercy for several months longer, as the ship sailed to the remote island of Madagascar. Now docked in the port city of Toamasina, Cillian worked with others to prepare the vessel for medical training and the first surgeries on board.

We’re so grateful to Cillian and all our volunteers who work so hard to keep our hospital ships running.

Just last week, the Africa Mercy reopened in Madagascar, where many patients have already received life-changing surgeries.

So what’s next for Cillian? Now, he is employed as a second mate on board a vessel much closer to home, conducting geophysical surveys.

But he’ll never forget his time volunteering with Mercy Ships. He told us,

“As well as a great opportunity to help others, it broadened my perspective and gave me more experience professionally. It was amazing and I’d love to be involved again if the opportunity arose.”

Volunteers like Cillian are the behind-the-scenes engine that keeps our hospital ships running. From mariners to mechanics, surgeons to shop assistants, teachers to technicians. Volunteers come from across the world to bring first-class hospital care to our patients.

Could you share your time and talents on board? Find out how you can volunteer with Mercy Ships.

Michelle, Engine Cadet, standing in front of the Global Mercy

Michelle, Engine Cadet, serving on board the Global Mercy.