a life-transforming difference.
Determined to invest his technical skills and IT career experience for good, Brazilian-born Alex Merlos Ruiz departed Invercargill in late August to volunteer aboard the world’s newest civilian hospital ship, Global Mercy.
After spending two years studying for a Masters in information technology at Southern Institute of Technology, Alex was searching for a meaningful cause to invest his experience and training in. He found it in a hospital ship charity, at a transitional moment.
On Sunday, September 12th Alex stood with other the Mercy Ships volunteer crewmembers dockside in Antwerp, Belgium welcoming the recently launched 37,000 gross tonne Global Mercy into port.
The Global Mercy joins the current hospital ship, the Africa Mercy allowing Mercy Ships to more than double the impact of their work; with life-changing operations, and with education and training of local healthcare workers in some of the poorest countries in Africa.
This recently launched vessel is about to undergo the final touches transforming it from ship into hospital ship. Operating theatres, wards and other services areas across two full hospital decks will be completely outfitted in the next three months – including the ICU paid for by donations from New Zealanders.
“I think volunteering offers opportunities to be a better professional, be a better person.”
Alex’s role is in the technical team; building and installing the information technology systems to run the surgical hospital, and meet the information technology and computer communication needs for 600 crew members’ work and personal lives on board. In additional to the usual computer technology, this hospital ship will use training suites and simulator rooms with mannequins, and virtual and augmented reality, to help mentor and upskill partner healthcare workers while in field service in sub-Saharan Africa.
Each year the Global Mercy will spend 10 months in an African port by invitation, providing healthcare services where over 93% of the population live without access to timely, safe affordable surgery.
From correcting cleft lips and palates and congenital deformities to removing tumours and restoring eyesight, it is estimated that more than 150,000 people’s lives will be changed on board the Global Mercy through surgery alone over the vessel’s 50-year expected lifespan.
“Computer systems are vital for every department on board,” explains Alex, who is volunteering for six months with Mercy Ships as a Service Desk Administrator. “It’s not just a simple department that deals with computers and devices anymore. It is at the core of all business.
“My IT is a crucial role on board in this scenario because surgeries and everything relies on technology. We are involved in all roles on the ship from reception to the captain.”
Alex loves tech, and he loves people. He believes he has the best job on board because he gets to connect the Mercy Ships crew with the technology that helps them perform their roles with excellence and purpose. Every member of the 600-strong international crew, from cooks to surgeons, tradies to maritime crew, will play a vital role. Together they will provide essential surgical services to Africa’s underserved poor, and help build the capacity of the region’s healthcare workers.
Alex says his role as Service Deck Administrator means being a bridge between the hospital ship crew and the challenges that advanced technology often poses.
“I can help people to do their jobs better, for Africa. We can help the clinical staff to have good performance so isn’t technology a barrier that can interfering in their in their work helping African patients. It’s an amazing to give a contribution to this world, and at the same time have amazing experiences.”
“Mercy Ships is a community helping other communities. I joined amazing people trying to do their best to help people.”
Published in Southland Express, September 16, 2021
Find out more about volunteer opportunities