Every volunteer crewmember on board a Mercy Ships vessel has a job to do. And there’s one person who’s in charge of looking after them, while they look after others.
Meet Daniela Cruz Ontiveros, the Chief Steward of the Global Mercy®.
She’s in charge of organising each volunteer’s living situation on board, from the dining room and galley to hospitality and housekeeping.
While she deals with the details, Daniela says the core of her job has nothing to do with sheets, paper towels, or meal plans.
“I feel like my main job is to maintain that ‘home’ aspect of the ship,” she said. “What makes the ship feel like home for you?”
That’s different for every person. For some, it’s an extra pillow. For others, a birthday cake. Photos up on the wall.
For Daniela, who first began volunteering on the Africa Mercy in 2017, it was the people that formed her new home.
She’s built that community on board the ship for years – and now, she’s ready to form another. This year, Daniela moved over to the Global Mercy, the newest and largest civilian hospital ship in the world.
“The Global Mercy for me means a professional challenge as well as personal growth,” she said. “See what God has made me capable of.”
Daniela was part of a skeleton crew that sailed the Global Mercy to Antwerp, where she is currently being equipped as a working hospital. The ship is getting ready to welcome patients aboard for life-changing surgery – and Daniela is getting ready to welcome many more volunteers.
“It’s exciting to see the teams coming together and how everyone is bringing such a unique experience, not only to the ship and the work, but also to the community,” she said. “Little by little you’re going to start building this community of thousands.”
She’s focused on one goal. Making sure every person who steps aboard in the coming months feels fully welcomed into the fold.
“It doesn’t matter who you are. You can be a surgeon or a housekeeper, you can be in the dining room or you can be a guest,” she said. “You belong to this community.”
She has one message for every person who’s thinking about taking the plunge: “Just do it. Just come and see it for yourself.
While it’s an experience unlike any other, there are a few things new volunteers can count on.
“Expect to meet people from all over the world, expect people wanting to know about you and sharing your story,” she said. “Expect a lot of work but at the same time, expect probably one of the most meaningful experiences of your life.”
Daniela doesn’t need to be a surgeon or a nurse to know that she’s a vital part of the hope and healing that Mercy Ships brings.
“You’re a part of this, I don’t even know how to put it in words, this experience of changing someone’s life,” she said. “It’s not only about the physical change, but it goes much deeper for patients. … ‘Someone did this for me. A stranger loved me so much that they’re willing to come in the ship, look at me, and change my life, and love me through that process.’”
Are you ready to be a part of that experience? Whether you’re near retirement or just starting your career; whether you have two weeks or several years to give; whether you bring decades of experience or just a desire to learn, we have a place for you. If you’re ready to Make Your Mark, visit mercyships.org/makeyourmark and get started.