At her usual day job back home in Australia, she’s the Aviation Safety Instructor for a major airline, educating pilots and aircraft crew in everything they need to know about emergency situations, including security, fires, depressurizations, survival, evacuation and more. So how did Harriet end up working in the hospitality department on a hospital ship in West Africa?
“My job back at home offers a three-month service leave after 10 years, so I was looking for something to do. When I saw the 60 Minutes Surgery Ship documentary about Mercy Ships, I thought, ‘That’s what I need to do!’ – and it all just fell together.” Harriet browsed through the broad range of job descriptions online – medical and non-medical, all with different lengths of service. She decided to do something a bit unrelated to her field of work, yet would still fit her personality well. “I love working with people, and I thought this would be a great job where I’d see a really diverse range of activities as well as people in the community on board the ship. I also wanted insight into all the different departments that make up the ship.” The hostess position required six months of service, so she applied, using the rest of her personal holiday time to make up the difference.
Teaching, one of Harriet’s many talents, still comes in handy as she orients new crew members: “I take pride in trying to make people feel welcome and immediately comfortable being on board the ship. A lot of people come from a long way…they’ve spent months if not years preparing to come on board. It can be a very emotional time, so I want them to fit in and feel comfortable as quickly as possible. If I can facilitate that for them, I think it’s a huge part of my role.”
With the majority of Harriet’s day-to-day focused on the crew, patient interactions still happen in other ways. During routine tours of the ship, she guides new crew through the hospital wards, a place where some of her fondest memories have been made. “During ship tours, we walk the length of ship, down past the hospital wards. More often than not there are young children, all bandaged up with different conditions, smiling and laughing. Most times, you get a big “Bonsoir!!” and a smile and a high five. That’s definitely the highlight of my day.”
What would Harriet say to someone thinking of signing up with Mercy Ships? “Don’t even think – just come – 100%!” She adds, “There are so many people here, serving out of love. Every single person on this ship is beautiful. They find the good in things, and everyone generally goes out of their way to help each other.”
And Harriet’s no different. Thank you Harriet, for sharing your remarkable self with every crew member you meet.