Volunteer in Africa: A busy sabbatical

Witnessing a change

Stephanie Bauman

More than 10 years ago, a friend of Stephanie’s boarded the Africa Mercy. She witnessed the impact on her life and decided that one day it would be her turn. Ten years later, Steph decided to take a sabbatical from her teaching job to experience something different. As she tried to figure out what would be best for her, Mercy Ships came to mind. She applied for a position outside of education roles, but was quickly noticed for her professional skills. The position of physical education and technology teacher was suggested to her. Although she wanted to do something different, her desire to serve and respond to needs took over and she accepted the position.

Volunteer in Africa: Both feet in the door

Now aboard the Africa Mercy, Steph realizes that she doesn’t need a new field to experience a challenge. Simply working on a hospital ship brings its own unique challenges and opportunities. The Academy on board the Africa Mercy welcomes about 20 students from around the world. She appreciates the ease of bonding with them, the opportunity to interact on a daily basis outside of school hours and even the chance to experience the reality of an operating room with her class. As a teacher, she realizes the importance of developing flexibility and creativity. Flexibility, since the circumstances of the pandemic bring additional challenges on board that require last minute changes to plans in order to comply with health regulations, and creativity to help students discover the subject matter with a new and attractive perspective.

Stephanie Bauman

In fact, she says, “just because it’s a subject I teach regularly doesn’t mean I can’t be fresh in the way I bring it to students.”

While she thought she had developed flexibility in her work at home in the midst of the pandemic, she confirms that her experience on board has challenged her even more on that level and helped her develop agility in the face of change. 

Inner change

Beyond the new professional learnings, she also sees how quickly she has adapted to community life to the point of knowing she will miss it greatly when she goes home. One way to get involved in her community on board is to join the musical group that leads worship sessions. Again, this is a rewarding experience as she both shares a familiar repertoire and learns new songs with her fellow international volunteers. Steph has found her place in this community that not only marks her life but will also mark the lives of her new community. 

Stephanie Bauman

Caring from a distance

The pandemic requires all crewmembers to adapt to ensure that patients are safe and healthy. For this reason, some non-medical crewmembers, including teaching staff, cannot visit patients during their hospital stay. However, it is from the top of deck number 7 that Steph and her colleagues make sure to greet them as a sign of celebration for having had a transformative surgery and to let them know that the entire crew is dedicated to their recovery by providing a safe and caring place. Steph mentions, “It’s hard sometimes not being able to meet the patients, but I remind myself that everything we do on board plays a major role in enabling patients to get this care.”

Want to volunteer in Africa? Learn more about opportunities to teach aboard one of our ships. Education positions are available here: https://opportunities.mercyships.org/opportunities-listings/?fwp_sectors=educator