Islay Robertson, Human Resources Asst Manager

The Africa Mercy was mid-field service in Senegal, West Africa when the COVID-19 pandemic caused global disruption, and Mercy Ships temporarily paused operations for the safety and wellbeing of patients and crew.

Islay had her hands full as everyone’s plans suddenly changed.

Why I volunteer with Mercy Ships. 

Islay’s journey with Mercy Ships began as she watched a National Geographic’s Surgery Ship documentary series about the hospital ships’ work in Africa.

“I was just totally blown away by it,” she reflects. Inspired to volunteer, she stepped into a career transition that turned out to be exactly what she needed and gained a unique perspective on what propels people to leave home and travel across the world to volunteer with Mercy Ships.

It’s the people

In late 2021, Islay joined the Global Mercy. Seeing this enormous, newly built sister-ship for the first time she says, “I was just kind of buzzing. It feels a little bit like a whanau. We’re just all extremely connected to each other. You can really see it and feel it.”

Islay is living onboard during the final stage of equipping as the hospital decks are outfitted, and the 37,000 gross-tonne vessel is readied for field service.

‘I love being a part of the community on both ships, and that I can use the abilities and skills that God gave me to help this organisation in its work transforming others. I love getting to know the crew who come from all over the world. In HR we get to meet everyone who comes on board and it’s awesome to see and meet people from so many different cultures and nations (including our host country). As well as getting to hear about each person’s story of what brought them to Mercy Ships.

Connecting her twin passions

Islay says two of her great passions come together as she serves with Mercy Ships; learning local languages and witnessing the life-changing transformations that happen between patients arriving onboard and departing after their essential bit previously inaccessible surgeries.

“This happens right before your eyes,” Islay explains. “As you can see patients in the ship corridors and on our dock. We are so blessed with access to health care in New Zealand, and it’s so nice to be able to contribute towards helping those in the world that don’t get anything close to the same access Kiwis have.”

“It’s a really unique experience in so many ways. The majority of the crew who come want to extend their term and stay longer, or they re-apply to come again the next year or so. It will definitely create lasting memories, and change you inside and out.”

Islay’s inspiration: The Surgery Ship TV series

It was a National Geographic documentary series filmed on board that captured Islay’s heart, and inspired her to volunteer with Mercy Ships for  3 years, and counting!

The Surgery Ship sails back onto Kiwi screens for 8 weeks, starting 1 April, 2022

More about The Surgery Ship series HERE:

It takes people from all walks of life to make mercy happen. Why not you? Find your place onboard as we serve together to deliver hope and healing.

maritime, medical and general volunteer roles with Mercy Ships