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An Electrician's Journey to Finding Purpose and Professional Growth

When Jean Jacques Diouf climbed the gangway of the Africa Mercy® for the first time in his home country of Senegal, he’d packed his suitcase with enough supplies for just one week. He figured he wasn’t going to be on board for long.

He’d only come to volunteer because he couldn’t say no to his father, who felt confident Mercy Ships would turn his son’s life around personally and professionally and advised him to just “go and see what happens.”

After spending a week among the international community on the hospital ship, 30-year-old Jean Jacques had formulated a new plan. He would return home to pack the rest of his belongings and return to the ship – this time, to stay

Looking for a Deeper Purpose

Before volunteering with Mercy Ships, Jean Jacques was working as the head electrician for a successful company in Senegal, where he led a team and earned a good salary. Everything was going according to his plan, but Jean Jacques still felt unsatisfied. He realized he wasn’t thriving or finding purpose in his work.

During that time, he became a musician, making gospel music to rid his emptiness. “Making music, writing music gave me freedom,” he said as his eyes lit up.

Though making music lifted his burdens, it wasn’t enough to combat the emptiness he felt. He had arrived at a crossroads, deciding whether to renew his contract or look elsewhere, when a friend suggested Mercy Ships. Jean Jacques was immediately interested and moved by the organization’s mission – but volunteering as an assistant electrician would mean not only a demotion, but working without pay, so he decided to keep looking for another opportunity.

But his father, Julien, had heard about Mercy Ships in the media and at church.

“I know that most of you have left certain benefits to truly bring to the forefront the love of the Lord to populations, without taking into account its religion or social background."

So, when Jean Jacques planned to reject the offer to volunteer, his father encouraged him to do otherwise – and despite having his exit plan mapped out, Jean Jaques quickly found the purpose and the peace he’d been searching for through the community on board.

A Newfound Purpose as a Maritime Volunteer

As a long-term volunteer maritime crewmember for the past two years, Jean Jacques discovered a newfound sense of joy in his work.

“I felt really comfortable. For me, it was definitely the best place to work. I found the work really interesting and the people really amazing, always willing to help. There is a difference between working for money and working for a purpose.”

Professionally, Jean Jacques experienced a new kind of work environment. On board, he was exposed to marine electricity and volunteer experts while having access to equipment needed for the job, something he says was a huge challenge in his previous job.

As Mercy Ships electricians, Jean Jacques and his team oversaw the maintenance and repair of electrical machinery, equipment, and distribution. They kept the lights on and the ship running so that volunteer medical crew could deliver safe surgical care to patients. Being a part of bringing hope and healing through free surgeries and surgical training – all while gaining personal development and professional growth – was the transformative experience Jean-Jacques had hoped for.

Training, Professional Growth, and New Goals

When Jean Jacques joined the Africa Mercy, Denise Ngum, an electrician from Cameroon, had already been on board for more than two years. She recalled how eager Jean Jacques was to learn and how easy it was to work with him, though he was new to marine electricity.

“When they talk of capacity building, Jean is one of those products. Jean is humble and captures things you teach him very fast,” Danise shared. “There’re a lot of things I am learning from Jean Jacques when it comes to humility and putting your ego aside. He doesn’t seek to impress or prove himself to people. Jean has that and I am trying to learn that from him.”

Denise, along with other experienced volunteer crew in the marine engineering department, offered a regular training course for electricians on board. To prepare himself for a long-term maritime career, Jean Jacques decided to take full advantage of this unique opportunity and check the boxes in his training book.

From home, Jean Jacques’ father felt immense pride watching his son thrive. He was certain that the decision to come on board the Africa Mercy had paid off.

“Mercy Ships is giving him more compared to what he got from his training and previous job. He also tells me that it is a big plus for him. He is progressing in terms of responsibility, on the professional level,” he said.

Jean Jacques believes that back home in Senegal, training for young people in his field is inadequate, affecting their self-esteem and confidence. In the future, the young electrician hopes to change this reality by bringing home his maritime training and passing on the knowledge he has acquired.

“I feel like I am more ready to deal with challenges better than I was before,” he said.

Jean Jacques’ success as a volunteer maritime electrician is evident not only in his professional growth but in his perspective and goals. In the past he found himself motivated by money, but today, he says things are different. As a proud volunteer, he has found purpose in contributing to something bigger than himself.

“I am proud to be part of an organisation which gives free surgeries to people who cannot afford it. Knowing that I am part of something big – a big mission – and I have my importance in this world. So far, I haven’t done anything bigger.”

Do you want to join a community of international volunteers dedicated to supporting your personal and professional growth? Are you drawn to finding purpose and joy by bringing hope and healing to those who desperately need it? Discover how you can get involved today.

Find your own place on board

Want to be part of making a tangible impact during this exciting season in Madagascar? There’s still time – and still space for you on board!

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