Volunteer Abroad: Testing the Waters

When a pandemic changes plans

Riley is a young writing professional from Vancouver who has been considering joining the work of Mercy Ships for eight years. He and his family made the life-changing discovery of what Mercy Ships is all about through the 60 Minutes program. Riley describes the impact of watching 60 Minutes as follows: “I had never heard of a charity that could have such a profound impact on individuals!” Both sight and dignity are restored.

“I consider myself to have an easy life. If I can help, why not do it?” – Riley

His plan was to save money to prepare to volunteer on board, but the pandemic accelerated his thinking. Circumstances allowed him to see that he was ready for a change. While working in the entertainment field, he felt the desire to move towards other professional goals but above all to respond to a need for meaning, to feel that his work contributes to the well-being of others. It is in this search to align profession and values that Riley finds himself today on the Global Mercy, our latest hospital ship. As he talks about his first interview as a writer, he says, “My sense of satisfaction was the strongest I’ve felt in a long time!”


Adjusting his sails

Since coming aboard, Riley has discovered an adaptability and resilience in himself that surprises him a bit. Life on board is constantly changing; people are leaving, others are arriving, there are multiple tasks to do, but Riley finds his rhythm and adjusts as needed. With the Global Mercy in its equipping phase, Riley has not yet had the chance to experience patient services first hand. However, he is looking forward to joining the hospital ship Africa Mercy in the near future to learn a new role and to have the privilege of working with patients.

You can’t control the wind, but you can adjust the sails! – James Dean


A destination to discover

English being the language used on board but not the mother tongue of all the volunteers, he discovered that the language barrier was not a real limit to work together. His experience on board is now leading him to see how his professional skills combined with his recent learnings open doors to explore the field of humanitarian aid in communication. Enriched by his journey, Riley is not yet ready for a return to land. He has decided to extend his involvement until 2023.

To find out if Mercy Ships can be a part of your life journey, check out the volunteer opportunities on board: https://mercyships.ca/en/get-involved/volunteer/