Former captain on board the Mercy Ships’ hospital ship, Africa Mercy:
“Being a volunteer on board was an amazing out-of-body experience”
With two Mercy Ships vessels in action from 2024, there will be an extra need for volunteers to board the ships, not least in the maritime field. The Danish captain Milan Falsing shares his experiences as a volunteer on board the former Danish ferry that now operates as one of the organization’s hospital ships, Africa Mercy.
Captain Milan Falsing from Mercy Ships Denmark has been a volunteer on the former DSB ferry, Africa Mercy, three times. The first time was in 2011, where he was driven by the dream of revisiting the DSB ferry “Dronning Ingrid”, which was transformed into a hospital ship in 2007. This reunion quickly turned into what has now become a huge passion not just for the ship, but also for Africa – leading to two more deployments in 2015 and 2019.
“I find it incredibly life-affirming to be a volunteer with Mercy Ships. It’s an amazing out-of-body experience because you see and experience things that you would never encounter otherwise. You get close to the everyday life of a foreign culture and get an unique insight into how basic things like acquiring food, living without easy access to electricity and water happen. Such experiences are impossible to have on a package holiday,” says Milan Falsing and continues:
“At the same time, it’s unique and incredibly touching to be part of providing medical assistance and surgeries to the patients. It means everything to us to be able to change the lives of the patients. We are there for them. We are not just there for ourselves. I think it’s incredibly important for us as humans to reach beyond ourselves.”
The three times Milan Falsing has been aboard Africa Mercy, he has been deeply moved by the care, gratitude, and love that permeate the atmosphere on board.
“The fact that everyone on board is there for the same purpose creates a very special atmosphere. That’s probably why Africa Mercy can be described as a ship built not just of good Danish steel, but also of a lot of love. The ship is known to be a bit of a love ship. People get close to each other, collaborate on tasks, share experiences and cultures, creating good dynamics and exchanges. It means that a lot of friendships are formed – and some even develop quite romantically,” says Milan Falsing.
Skip the package holiday – board the world’s largest fleet of hospital ships instead
When you board one of Mercy Ships’ two ships – together the world’s largest fleet of hospital ships – as a volunteer, whether you are a nurse, chef, doctor, chief engineer, sailor, captain, or something else entirely, you also get up close to a foreign country’s culture, people, and nature.
“Tourism has not made its way into that part of Africa yet. This also means that as a visitor to the country, you have the opportunity to have some truly unique experiences. Since we travel with Mercy Ships, which has a fantastic reputation and cooperation with the host countries we dock in, you are also guaranteed to be met with tremendous openness and gratitude. It is very touching to experience,” says Milan Falsing and concludes:
“I would definitely encourage anyone who dreams of traveling to places like Thailand to consider replacing the somewhat sterile tourist experiences with a volunteer stay on one of Mercy Ships’ two hospital ships. In terms of cost, it is comparable to a package holiday to Thailand – around DKK 15,000 for flight tickets and then DKK 4,000 per month for the stay on the ship. Included in the price are lifelong friends, life-affirming experiences, and the opportunity to make a vital difference for those who truly need us.”
Mercy Ships operates hospital ships that deliver free surgeries and other healthcare services to those with little access to safe medical care. An international faith-based organisation, Mercy Ships has focused entirely on partnering with African nations for the past three decades. Working with in-country partners, Mercy Ships also
provides training to local healthcare professionals and supports the construction of in-country medical infrastructure to leave a lasting impact.
Each year, more than 3,000 volunteer professionals from over 60 countries serve on board the world’s two largest non-governmental hospital ships, the Africa Mercy® and the Global Mercy™. Professionals such as engineers, captains, surgeons, nurses, cooks, and health trainers dedicate their time and skills to accelerate access to safe surgical, obstetric, and anaesthetic care.