We hear a lot from adults about life onboard the Africa Mercy, but what about from the perspective of the kids/young adults?
Many volunteers do not travel alone, they bring their families. There are about 50-55 children between the ages of one and eighteen living on board the Africa Mercy during the school year.
Children are exposed to many different cultures and nationalities and have opportunities to join the family in serving through various ways on and off ship. The Academy onboard offers a great school with small classes and excellent academics. There are a lot of people around that provide role models for children to interact with!
But enough of us talking about life onboard, let’s hear it from a young adult who’s been there and experienced life a little differently than many of the older volunteer onboard.
Shayli wrote this for us after her time spent in Sierra Leone a few years ago. Now almost 20, Shayli is in the world as an adult herself, continuing to develop a unique and special world view.
Living On a Ship
My name is Shayli, I am 16 years old, and I was 15 when I was on the ship. I currently am in grade 10, when I was on the ship I was in between grade 9 and 10 (around the end of grade 9 till the middle of summer). I live in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada (Eh?). Three things about me……… I like to snowboard, I like to make things like songs and editing pictures, and I love my family. I stayed on the Africa Mercy for 2 months around the end of my grade 9 year till the middle of summer.
My mom started off as a primary care giver for my sister and I, and then she moved on to being the hospital house keeping co-coordinator. She liked her job because she got to work with some Salone workers, and she grew close to some of them. In fact, we visited one person’s house. My dad on the other hand, was a nurse.
Africa Mercy, however, wasn’t the first missions trip I’ve done. My family and I have gone to India before with an organization called Child of Mine. My days on the ship were spent in many ways. I worked on the eye team. My job was to take patients up and down the gangway, to the washroom, take blood pressure and temperature, and to be a friend to the Sierra Leonians.
I wasn’t needed in that job, I was an extra member, I considered moving jobs to a place where I felt needed. Moving on, I then realized that where I felt needed and where God needed me were two different things. I’d talk my small amount of Creole language I knew to the patients to try and connect with them. And I did just that.More of my days………I also was trained at Starbucks, that was fun once and a while.
I was very much involved with the kids in Ward A. When they moved on I visited some of them at the HOPE center. I also met people from all around the world that I became friends with, and still keep connecting with them now. Most of them were older then I was. I love them very much. Continuing, there were a few kids on board, but it was around their school vacation, so most of them had left with their families on holidays. That was alright, because it worked on my people skills on being “brave” to hang with the big kids. We did share our cultures with one another, one girl even put a cool weave in my hair made of string.
There’s lots to volunteer for on the ship, all you have to do is sign up. I signed up for a lot, which consumed my days off and my weekends. That is one of the many fun things that can be done on the Ship. Not to mention staying up late with you friends to play card games or relax and watch a movie. However, visiting and getting close with the hospital patients is really, a very good time. Those people have a way of moving your spirit and implanting a seed in your heart. And before you know it you can’t stop seeing them. I visited them almost every night, no matter how tired I was.
Pros and cons though, unfortunately…… The worst thing about living on the ship is the food. An excellent job the kitchen staff does, but I was a vegetarian and I ate PB and J almost every day, 3 times a day for two months. Luckily they had salads every meal. That’s the great thing, if you didn’t like the meal, you could always have a basic sandwich and a salad. All this to say, if I wasn’t a vegetarian the food would have been a lot more enjoyable, I’m sure. When there’s pizza day or fish for dinner, it’s like the whole ship forms a unity of excitement. Who doesn’t like pizza?
Living with a family in close arrangements……….. Luckily, we got the penthouse, per say, on the ship. Thank the Lord I had my own bed, I love my sister but my own bed is really a great thing, if you know what I mean. The bathroom was a slight challenge, but really not too much. We got together better as a family. I don’t know why though. Getting back from Africa, I try to remember what I experienced in Africa with the culture and the people. Then I see that the materialistic “challenges” I face aren’t even comparable. Even my attitude has changed because of this in sports.
Now I seldom get angry, or disappointed in myself, the game, and my teammates; thanks Africa. Back on track, my family and I definitely experienced a positive note on being in Africa. We all love it and loved it. If I were to be crude I’d say that every kid my age would benefit from being in the experiences I had. But I suppose that’s not true.
I felt very out of place when I came back from Africa. I didn’t want to even be here. I still feel that way sometimes. The feeling is an emptiness of panic for a second. You can’t understand why you are here, and your purpose in the long run, and now. The hurt also, for me, is the pain of saying goodbye. I loved some of those people, so much. The absolute best thing to do is pray, and for comfort read the written word. “Rely not on your own understanding, in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your path straight.”
Advise for people my age to get along with other people, would be to simply have an open mind. If there is an argument, think hard about what you could have done to contribute to it.
The coolest thing in being in another country is meeting people and joining in on their culture. It’s the greatest when you see their faces shine with joy as you do your best to partisipate and love them. The coolest thing I did in Africa was go on ministry outings and being with the locals, or hanging with the kids, or walking through the town, or, or, or…..! So many great things that I did. I can’t pick one, I’m sorry. I had a lot of contact with the locals because I worked with them and I left the ship a lot. I couldn’t see operations because I wasn’t 16. That was hard because when your sixteen you get to do all that stuff, but not 15. I was taught patience through that.
I missed my friends, and food the most while I was away in Africa. I would most definitely go back to the Africa Mercy. I am interested in medicine, and I want to help people overseas with it and myself. If that happens, I think the Mercy Ship would play a role in that.
To live here in Canada now after the Mercy Ships is hard, but for now I have to do my best here as a person.
Jumbulani Jumbulani Africa, the Lord your God has risen above you now! I prey dat di body for do fine fine O Africa.
Peace and Blessings!