It has been just over three weeks that I was accepted to serve with Mercy Ships as a IS Support Specialist aboard the Africa Mercy. I arrived in Texas on Monday and over the last three days I’ve got to sit with every IS team member that works here at the International Operation Center (IOC) in Texas. It has been an eye-opening experience to see just how much work it takes to maintain the Information Services (network, servers, computers, data, phones, applications) within the organization.
The awesome outcome of sitting with the team is to see just how much passion and love everyone pours into their work. The team faces many difficult challenges, not typically affected by most hospitals, but they work together and strategically develop solutions to the needs of the ship. Many of these members have served aboard one of the ships for multiple years in their past, and now make Texas their home town to continue to serve the ship. They see and understand what the ship needs to function and go out of their way (at times working weekends and late hours) to ensure the ships technology is working.
When a volunteer comes aboard the ship, they just expect all things IS to work. They want to be able to get on the internet and send messages home – and their families expect that as well! They want to be able to check their email, Facebook, and have all of the applications they need for their job to be working at all times. Because of the limited internet speed on the ship, this is VERY difficult.
It seems that so many of the challenges on the ship start at the Geo-Satellite internet connection. The internet on the ship has a slower connection speed than your 4G cell phone. This internet connection has to provide data synchronization, communication (email, phones), and web browsing all over this very limited connection. The team has put together great synchronization plans, limited internet use, and redundancy policies to protect the ship as much as possible.
My role on the ship is supporting all clients technology needs. Apart from resolving IS problems on the ship, I also play the role of being the eyes and hands of the team members back in Texas. The team in Texas develop custom applications that run on the ship to collect patient data, ensure the security of the crew, provide onboard banking and inventory management, as well as other things and I am one of their counterparts on the ship when things aren’t working right.
Over the next 6 weeks I will be going through a class that is put together by Mercy Ships for members who are serving longer than 1 year. It consists of an introduction about Mercy Ships, their faith foundation, personal and interpersonal development, cultural training, and safety training.
My eyes have been greatly opened, but Mercy Ships does a lot of eye-opening. In Conakry, Guinea last year, there were 1,475 cataract surgeries! After getting to see all of the work it takes to be able to provide these operations, I’ve acquired a new respect for all of the hard work that it takes to support this mission.
I pray that through each post you can see a few things I’ve got to see this week.