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April 15, 2011 > National Volunteer Week...California style

National Volunteer Week...California style

Submitted By Claire Bufe

National Volunteer Week is extremely important to Mercy Ships, a global medical charity focused on health-related issues. Mercy Ships flagship, the Africa Mercy, is the world's largest non-governmental hospital ship and is staffed with 450 crew members - who serve as paying volunteers.

"We have a unique model. Without the faithful service of our volunteers and those who support them, we would not exist today," says Mercy Ships President and Founder Don Stephens.

Mercy Ships volunteer crew come from more than 40 nations, working together to serve the poor of West Africa and other developing countries. This year during National Volunteer Week (April 10 - 16) Mercy Ships highlights the state of California, the most represented state among the United States crewmembers onboard the Africa Mercy.

"I was surprised and proud to learn that California was the one state in the U.S. with the most Mercy Ships volunteers," says Paris Ivory, Hospital Ward Secretary. "What an honorable recognition!" Ivory is one of 20 volunteers from California currently serving with Mercy Ships in Sierra Leone.

Mercy Ships accepts professional volunteers who want to use their skill to serve the forgotten poor in West Africa. The ship is staffed with world-class surgeons, ophthalmologists, maritime professionals, engineers, nurses, teachers, cooks, writers, photographers, and sales staff - just to name a few. It functions as a floating city so there is an opportunity for every skill set. Each volunteer is there to help transform lives through surgeries, dental care, mental health education, agriculture instruction and other programs.

Ivory worked as a consultant for Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California before quitting her job to join Mercy Ships in West Africa. She has always had a passion for serving others. Volunteering is not just a hobby for her - she wanted to weave it into her life. That's why she is spending a little over five months without pay to serve the forgotten poor onboard the Africa Mercy. Ivory searched extensively for a volunteer opportunity where she could impact others. Mercy Ships quickly rose to the top of her list. "Mercy Ships was hands-down the one that aligned with my core values as a Christian as well as my passions for healthcare and serving the poor and needy. Serving Mercy Ships allows me to blend both of my passions in service for the Lord."

Shifting from a steady career in a bustling metropolitan area to a volunteer job in a developing country is not something considered typical. But Mercy Ships sees it every day. The most recent study from the Corporation for National and Community Service shows that the national volunteer rate is the highest it has been since 2005 at 26.8 percent. The increase in Americans volunteering is a trend enthusiastically welcomed by the team of international recruiters for Mercy Ships. "When more people seek out volunteer work, our job gets a little easier," says Angie Fadely, International Director of Recruiting at Mercy Ships. "It's a privilege to place our volunteers in positions that literally transform the lives of those who are suffering."

The Californians onboard the Africa Mercy were surprised and excited to hear that they were the most-represented state in the U.S. Ivory thinks this is good news for California, as "there are many causes that Californians support - from environmental to fighting cancer - and it's nice to see 20 people who have made a tremendous sacrifice to support a cause that Christ was very passionate about, the forgotten poor. Just one of the added perks is we get back just as much joy as the happiness we provide to those we serve."

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