Last October, Ole and Kamilla Urdal made a big leap. They decided to come aboard the Global Mercy® with their four children, leaving their home in Norway and moving into a family cabin on the world’s largest civilian hospital ship while Ole volunteers his time and skills in the engine room.
Now, the kids go to school on board in the ship’s preschool, primary and secondary Academy.
Ole’s role as HVAC engineer involves keeping the lights on – and, perhaps most importantly, keeping the air conditioning running – while Kamilla’s role on board is that of primary caregiver to their children, Emerik, Martin, Oliver, and Samuel.
This wasn’t the idea the family initially had in mind. Ole was originally going to be the one acting as the primary “stay at home” parent. Kamilla, a dentist, applied two years ago to volunteer in that capacity on the Africa Mercy®, the other vessel in the Mercy Ships fleet.
“We liked the concept of Mercy Ships, so that’s why we wanted to apply,” explained Ole. “When I met my wife 17 years ago, we already in the beginning talked about doing something else. The desire has grown in […] us for many years.”
After first hearing about Mercy Ships in 2010, the stars aligned for the Urdal family on board the Global Mercy, which began equipping in Belgium in September. At this time, a critical need for Ole’s background and skills pushed the family to change directions, so he volunteered in the HVAC Engineer role and Kamilla took on the responsibility of primary caregiver.
They plan to spend at least two years on board and have already been a part of many milestone moments in Mercy Ships history – from sailing on the Global Mercy’s maiden voyage to Africa, to serving during the ship’s first field service as a training hospital.
“This is our new home,” says Ole, “I’m prepared to do the job that is needed for the ship to get running.”
As the onboard HVAC Engineer, Ole has his work cut out for him. “We are taking over a brand new ship, so we need to get to know all of the systems, how they’re working, and if there are some problems, trying to fix them.” Yet no matter what challenges arise, the culture and mission on board make the work worth it.
One aspect Ole has been particularly impressed by is the diversity on board. Between the two ships in the fleet, more than 1,550 volunteers from over 60 nations donate their expertise and time each year to bring hope and healing to African nations with limited access to healthcare.
Looking ahead, Ole says, “That is a good start for the rest of the journey—that we’re all aiming towards the same goal and we have the same spirit for success.” The goal? To equip the Global Mercy to double the organization’s impact. With capacity for 199 patients at a time, as well as multiple state-of-the-art training spaces and a simulation lab, doubled hope and doubled healing are on their way.
Volunteers like Ole make Mercy Ships’ mission possible. Specialized positions like his are in high demand, but those like caregivers are just as crucial. We currently have a critical need for an HVAC Engineer on board our ships, as well as several other urgent positions. Find out how your professional and personal skills can make a difference, today.