Embarking on a volunteer journey with Mercy Ships fulfilled a lifelong dream for Deddy, an operating theatre nurse from the Netherlands.

“I always wanted to go to Africa since I was little. I had already told my parents, ‘I want to be a nurse,’” she said.

Coming on board for three months in 2010 was everything Deddy hoped it would be. She thought to herself, “this is what I want to do.”

As a volunteer, Deddy says, “I show up in the morning because I’m here to help our patients.”

Back home in the Netherlands, she’s brought the same mindset with her: “You want to treat your patients like it’s your mum or your sister or your nephew. Care for your patient how you hope others would care for your family members.”

During a typical field service, Deddy serves in the centre of the ship: the operating theatre. For years, she’s volunteered as the Maxillofacial Team Leader, a role she will fill again when the newest Mercy Ship, the Global Mercy®, sails to Senegal and begins operating.

In years past, Deddy served on board the Africa Mercy®, the more senior vessel in the Mercy Ships fleet. The ship will return to Senegal in February to continue providing free surgery to patients who have been awaiting care. Deddy stayed on the Africa Mercy for months early in the COVID-19 pandemic, shifting to kitchen work in the galley after the patients left and she closed down the hospital. After eventually disembarking and returning home, Deddy spent the pandemic yearning to return to the work that had captured her.

“There’s so much we can do for patients in Africa. We have in our western world so much more than they do, and one of the hard things of going back home is patients complaining, ‘I had to wait for an hour’ or ‘Why did they cancel my surgery? I have a right to health care.’ Our patients here on the ship don’t [have the same access] —they’re so thankful for everything we do for them.”

Right now, Deddy is helping pave the way for the field service by equipping the Global Mercy in Belgium. She’s got no small task: setting up a whole new hospital that will accommodate up to a staggering 200 patients at a time. It is quite a challenge, and Deddy is focused on the details. “It’s all the preparations: What do we need when we get to Senegal? My main project at the moment is getting all our surgical instruments ready.”

The Mercy Ships community on board our hospital ships are like none other. “Together is how you make the difference,” shared Deddy when asked about how she individually has made her mark. She is one of over 1,200 volunteers who donate their time and unique skills each year to help deliver free, world-class healthcare to those who need it most. Whether you have experience in an operating room or a kitchen (or both, as Deddy has now), there is a place for you on board. Discover more at mercyships.org/makeyourmark