The ship kids and the Academy

I am still amazed when I have a conversation with Shea or Jenelle who are two of the teachers in the Academy on board. Shea teaches first grade  and Jenelle is the preschool teacher (see the pics below). Seeing and listening to them in their element just fills me with fond memories of my childhood and the joy of learning to read and write. Jenelle has the most creative ways of engaging and handling 3 very different kids and  I also love Shea’s classroom that’s themed Dr Seuss this year.

This especially reminds me of my primary school years and my one in a million grade 1 teacher, Mrs. Bayman from Discovery Primary School. I can still remember singing hymns on Wednesday mornings in our school hall and going to bible study classes learning about Jesus’ miracles.

Our school motto is engraved in my mind to this day and I can still sing (part of) my primary school song like I am standing there in the hall for Friday morning assembly with my eyes lifted to the old-school overhead projector’s reflection. Some of it goes like this:

“Discoverers with courage went to seek the great unknown.  In faith and perseverance our nation too has grown. Enduring many hardships but never losing heart. The future calling brightly as each one plays his part…

Discovery, Discovery, we proudly bear the name. In building our tradition, remembering from whence it came.

Kind thoughts and deeds should be a part of life, so close to me. That in the path I daily tread I’ll never fail to see, when someone needs encouragement his spirit to uplift. Thus sharing life has given me but once a Godly gift.”

No doubt in my mind that these things; the ship emblem, school song, motto, the bold discoveries of Columbus, Dias, Magellan and Da Gama, the values of adventure, courage, compassion and brotherhood inspired though song and teachings were carefully orchestrated to mold, direct and grow me, and others too… There’s little wonder in how I got to live on a hospital ship in West Africa with volunteers from across the globe doing medical missions. It’s not at all a co-incidence.

AFM Academy Benin August 2016 – May 2017

At first appearance the school on the ship here is so different, you know, it’s on a ship!, in West Africa. The school photo is taken in a port and it has Landrovers in it! 🙂  Kids spend almost all day together, play after-hours and then some, every weekend… They go home and share lunch  with mom and dad every day. They get to spend evenings hanging out with their teacher (Not always, but when you live, eat, sleep ,school and work in one place it happens more often than you know) All of  which isn’t the typical mainstream schooling picture. For me though, my brother was friends with my teacher’s son and since we were close I tagged along to their play dates and ended up hanging out with my teacher on weekends. The irony is laughable. I still have that nickname, and I am exceptionally grateful for the culture and familiarity those memories have created.

But the more I’ve gotten to know the kids and the teachers here on board the Africa Mercy the more I’m seeing that this place is one where races, cultures and languages melt together in a journey of discovery much like I experienced in my humble multi-everything South African school so many years ago. Teachers who love Jesus and share their excitement and passion for molding Jesus-loving humans is common to both my experience and what is happening here in the Academy. Game changers being made of each child from nursery through to year 12.

Jenelle’s preschool class.3 different countries represented.
Shea’s first grade class
Nursery class. 4 countries represented.

“Field trips look a little different when your school is on a hospital ship. Recently the Mercy Ships Academy’s first grade class headed down to the dock for a day of hands-on learning, including getting their very own casts. They learned how the Physical Therapists of Mercy Ships treat certain conditions using the Ponseti method, a special casting process. The students were able to walk in a patient’s shoes and get a little taste of what it’s like to receive treatment from Mercy Ships – a lesson they’ll never forget.”


Don Stephens with the Abdulie Wall outside of the AFM Academy.
Don Stephens founded Mercy Ships in 1978.

Check out this video on the Mercy Ships Academy the see what the teachers on board our hospital ship have to say about living and working in this multicultural wonderland.


Here are 4 of the many families on board:

The Barkis
The Yangas Family
The Wall family in their Beninoise outfits.
The cool Cash crew
Keen to learn more about Mercy Ships Academy? Email: and visit  the AFM Academy Website

Wana read the blogs of some of the teachers on board? Check out our French teacher Myriam’s blog or Maths teacher Wendy’s blog .

Also a great insight into life on ship for kids and families and teachers is the Barki’s blog and the Cash Crew blog.

We need teachers and a principal for the next school year in Cameroon starting August 2017.. dare to discover a new path.


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