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Make Your Mark: Photographer Emily Frazier

If there’s one person who knows the kind of adaptability it takes to be a Mercy Ships volunteer, it’s Emily Frazier.

She was supposed to join the ship in June 2020. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Her start date was pushed to July, then September, then April 2021.

“They called me and they were like, ‘Are you sure you want to go?’” she remembered, laughing. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, I just sold my car!’”

So she went, but there was another twist. She was the only communications volunteer boarding the Africa Mercy®. A photographer by trade, she discovered her first project would be a video.

“I was like, ‘I’m so in over my head,’” she said. “It took me like an hour and a half just to find the video camera in the office.”

Emily Frazier, Mercy Ships photographer.

Now Emily does audio. Video. Reporting. Vlogging. TikTok. “I’ve sort of become a quasi-journalist, or I guess just like, multimedia team in one,” Emily said.

And soon after Emily arrived on board the Africa Mercy, docked in the Canary Islands, her plans changed again.

She was invited to join the Global Mercy®, documenting the newest member of the Mercy Ships fleet as it made its way to Europe.

She said yes to the adventure. Emily quarantined at a hotel, then flew to Madrid, then Qatar, and finally Sri Lanka. When she boarded the Global Mercy, she didn’t have the luxury of a gangway. She took a late-night pilot boat and climbed a ladder up the side of the ship, anchored off the coast in choppy waters.

“After that I was seasick for a couple days, and then kind of got my legs,” she said. “Then it was just incredible, every day waking up and it’s like a 360 view of just open waters.”

The ship is now in Antwerp, where it will begin the “equipping” phase. A working hospital will literally be built inside its walls. “The hospital is completely empty right now,” she said. “It’s just empty halls, white floors, white walls.”

As the equipment is loaded in, the ship will fill with volunteers.

For Emily, this transitional season with Mercy Ships has brought with it something special.

“Some of the grittiest volunteers are among us, some of the most flexible volunteers, because we’ve had to deal with so many changes,” she said. “That’s probably been the best part, is just meeting people who really value the same things as me and who laugh in the face of challenges.”

They may have joined the ship at different points, but everyone shares one goal.

“Every day we’re getting closer and closer to her getting to Africa,” Emily said. “Truly the vision has just been like, ‘We can’t wait to get this ship to do what it does best.’”

Emily using binoculars to see Las Palmas, during sail.

Emily started as the ship’s photographer, but she soon took on another job. “I try to be a bridge-builder,” she said. “Bridging between cultures, bridging between generations.”

Even bridging between jobs, during her time at sea, Emily has found that she naturally connects with people from different departments. Engineers. Deckhands. Hospitality workers.

She loves to bring people together. And there’s no better place than international waters.

“When someone moves to another country, the host country sort of has the upper hand,” she explained. “You are learning about our language, you’re learning about our culture. … But in this, it’s a floating space and it’s a space that is between countries.”

On the ship, there are traditions, foods, and languages from many different nations. “That’s something that I want to participate in and continue to bring to the table,” Emily said. “Making sure that people don’t stay in their bodies of the same nation or the same job or the same gender or same generation.”

When Emily’s team of 20 first joined the eight-person skeleton crew of the Global Mercy off the coast of Sri Lanka, she saw something begin to happen. As the new volunteers joined the old, a community formed. They started celebrating birthdays. They gathered for movie nights.

“It was kind of crazy because it was like, you’re having a birthday party and you realise that everybody would have never met in any other environment,” she said. “And I think that’s what Mercy Ships really is amazing at, is bringing people together.”

Are you a photographer, an engineer, or a hair stylist? No matter what skills you bring, there is a place for you in the Mercy Ships community. Whether you have two weeks or several years to give, if you’re ready to Make Your Mark, visit mercyships.org/makeyourmark to get started.