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There's hundreds of volunteer opportunities for people from all walks of life on board our hospital ships.

We’ve got a challenge for you – but say yes and your courage and compassion will change lives and bring essential surgery to sub-Saharan Africa. We need volunteers willing to spend a couple of weeks or a few months or more on board, caring for our crew and patients.  Can you come with us?

It takes a big whānau to operate our hospital ships, and every volunteer role onboard the Africa Mercy and Global Mercy is vital for delivering safe surgical care and medical training to the people we aim to serve. Many people are surprised how their skills can be a part of something so meaningful.

Check out the wide range roles, with various lengths of service. There are places for people who have specific skills and experience, and for others who just want to help out any way they can – because everyone is a crucial member of the crew. Mercy Ships is a welcoming and loving place that’ll change your life, and you’ll help change others’ lives too!

If you are looking for an inspiring mission to invest your professional skills and personal experience in, volunteering on board may be your next adventure.

Maybe you have long service leave due and you can volunteer for a few months, or perhaps you want to use your holiday time for good. Join the hundreds of volunteers from all over the world who are making a life-transforming difference by using their  skills to help serve the marginalised, with Mercy Ships.

The experience of a lifetime awaits the brave and compassionate who have a heart for adventure.

Many people see Mercy Ships and think that only people in healthcare are able to help. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. We have crew serve in a myriad of different ways and they are all equally as important. The crew works in common, bringing help and healing to the most vulnerable.

Non-medical volunteer roles onboard include receptionists, information technology specialists, housekeepers, vehicle mechanics, electricians, engineering and deck officers, dining room and galley crew;  the list goes on and on. There is a role for just about anyone that has the desire to serve with Mercy Ships.

Discover how you can use your specific skills and experience onboard Mercy Ships to help provide essential surgery for Africa’s under-served poor.

Find your place on board

General opportunities

Preferred Minimum Commitment: 3 mths – 2 yrs

Technical opportunities

Preferred Minimum Commitment: Varies

Medical opportunities

Preferred Minimum Commitment: 2 wks- 2 yrs 


No, all equipment are provided by the ship.

Schedules vary depending on where you work. Ward and ICU nurses work rotating shifts, which will include nights and weekends. Operating Room staff and other ship-based teams tend to work weekdays, day shifts. Some days may be long.

Teams that work primarily off-ship, including Dental, Eye, and Palliative Care team members work Monday through Friday. These teams are usually in a hot environment and travel to and from their locations each day.

Nurses can expect to work approximately 10 shifts in every 2-week period and receive one weekend off every two weeks. All shifts are about eight hours, including weekend shifts. Nurses will work a mixture of day and evening shifts, with 4-5 night shifts in a 4-week period and night duty is expected of all ward nurses. Shift times are as follows:

Day: 7:00 am – 3:00 pm

Evening: 2:00 pm – 9.30 pm

Night: 9:00 pm – 7:30 am

These shift patterns are subject to change

Ward Nurses care for 5-7 patients of varying acuity on a day or evening shift and on a night shift, nurses care for approximately 10 patients. Our Ward Nurses are vital in caring for the patients of our busy surgical ward – dealing with simple incision lines and more complicated skin graft dressings, surgical drains, NG tubes, urinary catheters, IV fluids, IV antibiotics, nasopharyngeal airways and occasionally tracheostomies. Upon arrival, nurses are given the opportunity to tell us how comfortable they are with certain skills, which is taken into consideration when we assign patients.

Our ICU Nurses care for ventilated and critically ill patients.

Students often ask to join Mercy Ships as an elective session or to get exposure/experience in a developing country, but regrettably we are unable to accommodate these requests. The majority of the positions in the hospital require a current license and we do not have personnel or bed space on board currently to facilitate these opportunities.

  • A married person can serve up to three months without their spouse. 
  • Due to the physically demanding nature of the work on board our hospital ships, passing a physical is key part of the application process. For specific details on common medical reasons for exclusion like elevated blood pressure or BMI, please click here


Mercy Ships is an international humanitarian organisation based on Christian values. Our mission is to improve access to health care in low-income nations. 

By deploying the world’s two largest non-governmental hospital ships, the Africa Mercy and the Global Mercy, Mercy Ships works with host countries to help them improve their health care systems.

Each year, more than 1,200 volunteers from over 60 nations donate their time and resources to support the Mercy Ships vision.

Mercy Ships’ surgical specialties include maxillofacialplastic reconstructiveorthopaedic, ophthalmic, general, and gynecological (obstetric fistula) surgery.

Simultaneously, we provide training and mentoring to upskill local health professionals, strengthening the host nation’s health care capacity. 

I love talking to people about finding their fit on board, and I’m here to answer your questions about volunteering.


“Five billion people in the world live without access to safe, timely, affordable surgery. Our family is proud to be part of an organisation working to change the global surgery crisis by transforming lives and extending dignity to thousands of people in great need.”