Bringing a Crew Together on the World’s Largest Civilian Hospital Ships

It takes hundreds of volunteers to power Mercy Ships’ mission of following the model of Jesus to deliver safe and free surgeries via hospital ships.

Those volunteers need to be equipped with professional skills in medicine, seafaring, accounting, cooking, and many other fields.

They hail from countries around the world, and they must navigate long journeys, language barriers, visa procurement, and more logistics before they board the ship and begin serving.

Through it all, the Mercy Ships People & Culture (P&C) team is beside them, offering crewmembers the support and expertise they need to succeed.

“People are more than letters or papers,” said Olumuyiwa Adebayo, volunteer P&C facilitator on the Global Mercy™. “These are real people who have come to make a difference.”

Olumuyiwa makes a difference, too. But as a P&C volunteer, he makes his impact – by helping others make theirs.

Joining the Crew

In 2022, a Mercy Ships chaplain visited Olumuyiwa’s home country of Nigeria.

“He spoke to me about the amazing things happening on the ship, the lives that are being transformed every day,” Olumuyiwa recalled. As he listened, it struck him. He wanted to be a part of this mission.

“That same very day I picked up my laptop and applied to come and serve,” he said.

Once he’d climbed the gangway of the Global Mercy, Olumuyiwa’s attention turned toward helping to bring others on board. As a P&C facilitator, he works closely with the ship’s department heads and Mercy Ships’ 16 national offices around the globe.

“The mission of my department is getting and keeping the right people on board,” he said. “That is also my joy, that I’m able to serve our crewmembers before they come, and also while they are on board.”

Often Olumuyiwa works to help a potential volunteer navigate the application process, along with the international requirements that go along with living abroad. When that person finally walks up the gangway, it’s a surreal experience.

“It’s good to see the face behind the name,” he said. “These are also people who have left what they used to be much more familiar with, to embrace something that is probably foreign to them.”

Olumuyiwa knows these newcomers need support – and that’s when his role is most important.

Set Up for Success

Once these volunteers from all over the world come on board, the P&C team’s work is just beginning.

“When they arrive, there’s also something I am doing to support them to have a wonderful time on board,” Olumuyiwa said.

P&C continues to assist crewmembers as they serve, some for weeks and some for months or even years. Olumuyiwa said this ongoing support is what helps Mercy Ships retain the right people.

“From day one, Mercy Ships set me up for success,” he said. “I’ve been equipped with tools, technologies, and trainings that have allowed me to be able to implement (P&C) best practices.”

By extension, Olumuyiwa said, his team does the same for the rest of the crew.

“If you sign up to serve with this organization, you are being set up for success,” he said. “Not only that, you are going to be a part of something that is bigger than yourself.”

‘Experience the World in One Spot’

Living on board a hospital ship, surrounded by people from diverse cultures and backgrounds, is bound to be life changing.

“Every day I get to be exposed to opportunities to communicate cross-culturally,” said Olumuyiwa. “That means when I speak to people, I have to do more listening. I have to show more empathy.”

When Olumuyiwa hears an unfamiliar viewpoint, he’s learned to think about it in a new light.

“Those views are not wrong,” he said. “They’re just different.”

Olumuyiwa feels that his time on board the Global Mercy has broadened his mind and given him the gift of travel – even when the ship remains docked.

“You get to experience the world in one spot,” he said. “I may not have been to many parts of the world, but on this Global Mercy, I think I’ve been there already.”

From the languages he learns to the foods he tries, Olumuyiwa gets to explore not just his host nation, but dozens of other nations as well. In turn, he shares his home country of Nigeria with others.

“It’s a brave and also a bold choice to live in this kind of environment,” he said.

The People & Culture Department has a critical need for more volunteers to help staff the Global Mercy and her sister ship, the Africa Mercy®. In 2024, Mercy Ships will have two ships in active field services simultaneously, for the first time in decades. That means more volunteers than ever are needed to serve the people of Sierra Leone and Madagascar – and P&C’s recruitment and retention efforts are a vital component of the mission.

“We cannot do this without people. We need people to run with a vision. We need people to pursue the vision,” Olumuyiwa said. “There is a part for you to play.”

Are you ready to find your place on board like Olumuyiwa? Do you want to use your experience to change lives? Mercy Ships has a variety of P&C openings available. Learn more about all current P&C opportunities and take the first steps in this next chapter today.