With characteristic humor, operations director Andrew Rothwell says the thing he loves most about working on board the Mercy Ship is the short commute to work– one flight of stairs from his cabin, and 30 seconds later he’s in his office.
The Australian joined Mercy Ships initially in a short term capacity as a vehicle mechanic in 2010. Andrew loved the work so much that he returned full-time the following year in the Sierra Leone, with his wife Jodie and daughter Jessica. He explains, “A lot of the fears I had about joining Mercy Ships longer term evaporated because of the people I met and got to know on board. There is almost a family-type atmosphere of inclusiveness here.”
After serving for two years as the vessel’s Engineering Storeman, Andrew transferred back to transportation, and spent another two years managing the Africa Mercy fleet of vehicles. The 26 four-wheel drives are an essential component of the on-shore work Mercy Ships provides each field service.
Each day Mercy Ships teams are transported to the dental clinic, the Hospital OutPatients Extension (HOPE) Centre, patients are moved, and supplies are relocated. Weekly the vehicles negotiate rough terrain to reach villages for palliative care and to allow the Communications team to follow up with patients’ stories after they have returned home. Keeping the fleet well maintained is a matter of crew safety as well as efficiency.
Andrew continues some oversight of the transportation department in his recent role as Operations Director. He describes this executive role as managing everything on board that is non-medical and non-maritime; everything that allows the 480+ crew members to live life on the Mercy Ship.
He continues, “The reason I like Mercy Ships is that we leave a lasting impact wherever we go. You can put your skill and experiences to use for a higher purpose – to make a difference with the skills and abilities you are given- and feel good at the end of your work day.”
Andrew reflects over his voluntary service in Togo, Sierra Leone, Guinea, the Congo and Madagascar. His most poignant moments have been observing ophthalmic patients having their eye bandages removed after cataract surgery.
He loves participating in the event that allows eye patients to share what their healing has meant to them. “The Celebration of Sight is very touching,” he reflects. “It’s like a miracle happens before you. The reaction of someone looking around and saying, ‘I can see I can see!’ is amazing! This is why we’re here.”