Mercy Ships Volunteer Teachers Mold the Next Generation of Humanitarians

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On World Teachers’ Day, Mercy Ships recognizes volunteer teachers who have taught more than 800 international students on its hospital ships since 1978

Teachers and students on the dock by the Africa Mercy in Madagascar, 2015

The 2016 Academy onboard Mercy Ships has an international faculty from 5 countries and 55 students representing 9 countries.

Whether it be in discussions about the free surgeries happening a few decks down or the healthcare training of African medical professionals on board, the teachers draw from their unique environment to inspire the next generation.

Kim Robinson has spent nearly nine years volunteering on the world’s largest private hospital ship, Africa Mercy, as a teacher in the [Mercy Ships Academy.
Founded in 1978, Mercy Ships is a global, faith-based charity that uses a state-of-the-art hospital ship to provide lifesaving and life-changing medical care to children, teens and adults in developing nations who lack access to healthcare.

Robinson is one of 210 volunteer teachers around the world who has spent time teaching more than 800 international students on the ship since its founding in 1978.

On World Teachers’ Day, Mercy Ships recognizes its volunteer teachers who have donated their time and skills to teach children in a unique learning environment on board its floating hospital ship. The school staff at the Academy includes teachers from five nations who work with students from nine nations, which provides a multicultural classroom environment for daily studies.

As a long-term volunteer, Robinson has been aboard Africa Mercy, the ship dedicated to the continent of Africa, since August 2007. For the last five years, she has taught English and Bible classes to sixth- through 12th-grade students in the ship’s Academy. She has also taught French, math and biology during her time on the ship.

The students make the experience fulfilling, Robinson said.

“Seeing students blossom here is so rewarding. In many ways our small school creates a sense of family, and students become genuine learners who care for each other,” Robinson said. “I love the willingness of each child in our Academy to learn new ideas and skills and the joy the older ones have encouraging and helping the younger ones.”

Robinson’s responsibilities include building the curriculum for the school and tutoring English as a second language (ESL) adults who want to move forward in their careers. She has also given back to struggling African schools.

“I had the opportunity to interface with several African schools in Sierra Leone, South Africa and Liberia, helping them with their building projects, teaching methods, textbooks and offering teacher support. Though what we did may have seemed slight at the time, it was immensely encouraging to the schools,” she said.

Volunteer teachers in Mercy Ships Academy teach students much more than the traditional subjects of math and science. In addition to educating them about the history, culture and economic situation of each country Mercy Ships has visited, teachers use every opportunity to help students realize their community is bigger than their immediate peers and family.

Academy students participate in community service activities, such as painting a classroom at a nearby school for deaf students and making coloring books with encouraging French words for the patients in the wards.

“The upper-level students in grades 6 to 12 often go to the patient screening for a day and help shift patients between screening stations, play with children or serve water and food,” Robinson said. “It is a time when the humanitarian work of Mercy Ships comes to life for our kids. Seeing the desperate need and the people waiting patiently while enduring long lines waiting to be screened, their own hearts become moved to make a difference for people whose needs are not being met by their communities.”

Teaching school on a floating hospital provides many unique opportunities to expose students to a real-life application of the theories learned in class. During the Madagascar field service, an orthopedic surgeon asked an Academy math teacher to use her skills to help him prepare for a complex surgical repair. The surgeon needed help with modeling the angle measurements of a patient’s femur with a trigonometric graph.

“The teachers take full advantage of their floating classrooms on board the world’s largest private hospital ship to help instill the Christian worldview of serving others in their students,” Brian Blackburn, Mercy Ships Academy chief administrator, said. “Whether it be in discussions about the free surgeries happening a few decks down or the healthcare training of African medical professionals on board, the teachers draw from their unique environment to inspire the next generation.”

Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class healthcare services, capacity building and sustainable development to those without access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries, providing services valued at more than $1.3 billion, treating more than 2.56 million direct beneficiaries. Africa Mercy is crewed by 400 people from up to 40 nations, an average of 1,000 volunteers each year. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time. For more information, click on

For more information, contact:

For USA: Pauline Rick
U.S. Public Relations Coordinator
Mercy Ships
Office Tel.: (903) 939-7000
Mobile: (972) 922-5442
Hi-res photos and general Mercy Ships b-roll video footage are available upon request.

The United Nations’ World Teachers’ Day celebrates the role teachers play in providing quality education at all levels. This enables children and adults of all ages to learn to take part in and contribute to their communities and global society.

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Pauline Rick
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