15 Jun Mariners recognised as Key Workers in the UK
A few weeks ago the UK government recognised the importance of seafarers and officially classified them as keyworkers. Seafarers not only keep our world and supply chains connected, but through Mercy Ships they help provide free healthcare to people in desperate need in nations with struggling healthcare systems.
This year 25th June is International Day of the Seafarer. Mercy Ships is taking a moment to honour and recognise the importance of seafarers everywhere and highlight four of the incredible marine volunteers who power our ships and help transform and save the lives of our patients.
Stuart Little is from the UK and is the carpenter onboard the Africa Mercy, the largest charity hospital ship in the world. A carpenter might not be the first role you think of when operating a hospital ship, but we keep ours very busy supporting our community onboard. Marine professionals like Stuart help repair, maintain, and even customise pieces for the ship and hospital alike. Every role here at Mercy Ships contributes towards strengthening the healthcare systems in the nations we serve. Stuart volunteers with his wife, Lynn and son, Matthew.
“Volunteering with Mercy Ships has given me a whole new experience and reason for being. The sense of being part of something that is bigger than any individual and we are all working together to provide hope and healing for the patients. When I see them walk up the gangway, I realise why I am here… We are part of something bigger with a common aim and we are all working together. It gives me a real sense of purpose. The motivation to go to work is no longer money, it is something more than that. It is perfect.”
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 comes from a seafaring and nursing family – a unique combination that led him to work with Mercy Ships. 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 direr, with many lacking access to even 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.
All of the volunteers onboard the Africa Mercy help provide life-changing operations such as tumour removals, straightening bowed legs and restoring vision.
Thank you to all our incredible marine volunteers who help make the work we all do possible.