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Current student with a passion to serve

Hi all!

My name is Kaitlin and I am currently a student of Physical Therapy in the U.S. About two years ago I had the opportunity to volunteer in a physical therapy clinic in Dakar, Senegal not associated with Mercy Ships. While I was only in Dakar for one month during 2017, the lessons I learned and the authentic passion that was instilled in me to serve in Africa in my future career stay with me to this day. Prior to beginning Physical Therapy school (May 2018) I was a student at Bethel College (2014-2018). During my time at Bethel I heard of Mercy Ships as a nursing student from Bethel served on one of the ships. Recently as I have been praying for direction on next steps after school, I began to think again of this organization. As I dug deeper into Mercy Ships, I realized that the Africa Mercy serves in Dakar. Upon learning this, I can't help but to learn as much as I can about the Africa Mercy and to get more connected with those who have served/are serving/want to serve. I still have quite the journey left in my schooling as I do not graduate until 2021 and will need to get experience under my belt before I can serve others well. However if anyone has words of advice for a current student with a passion to serve please feel free to comment or send a message my way! I would love to hear about your experience and I am all ears to any advice as to what options there are for students/young professionals who want to serve as early as possible out of school!

Thanks for taking the time to read and reach out :)

With gratitude,

Kaitlin E.


  • SummerRosenbalmSummerRosenbalm Posts: 9 - Current Staff

    Hi Kaitlin,

    I am thrilled to hear that you are interested in serving with Mercy Ships! And how exciting that you went to Senegal a few years ago!

    I am tagging @JoanneGates, the Rehab Team Leader, in this message since she might be able to give you some insight and/or advice for the Physical Therapist role.


    Summer Rosenbalm

    Medical Staffing Manager

  • kaitlin_elsasserkaitlin_elsasser Posts: 2

    Hi Summer!

    Thank you so much for the encouragement and connection! I am excited to learn more about the organization and what the role of the Physical Therapist entails aboard the ship. Thank you again!

    With gratitude,

    Kaitlin Elsasser

  • JoanneGatesJoanneGates Posts: 1

    Hi Kaitlin,

    I am the Rehab Team Leader right now on the African Mercy. I am a physical therapist from the United States. It is exciting that you are interested in using your therapy skills within the developing countries. There are great opportunities to use your skills directly and in a teaching capacity. As a physical therapy student looking to serve in Africa, it is important to have a solid foundation of basic skills that are adaptable to a variety of diagnosis. Mercy Ships requires 2 years of clinical practice being able to come to work with the Rehab Team. We predominantly see children under 15 with orthopedic problems of knock knees, bowed legs and club feet and children and adults after burn scar contracture releases. If you are interested in seeing what is happening on the African Mercy and you have some time between your studies, you can see if there is another position available on the ship (e.g. dining room or galley) and then visit the Rehab department during your free hours. 

    Some of the African countries have good Physical Therapy Schools many of who have support from countries in Europe. These therapists need practical experience in advanced skills to assist their patients. Other countries do not have many therapists or therapists who have had minimal training from a variety of outside organizations. In most cases, the therapists are interested in discussing techniques and learning new approaches to help their patients. 

    I have heard that International Medical Aid also has programs for physical therapy students in a variety of settings but I have no experience with this group. In addition, the American Physical Therapy Association also has a section on its website called International Volunteer Opportunities & Organizations which lists numerous organizations who have overseas opportunities for a variety of lengths of times and experiences.  

    I hope this is helpful. Please let me know if you have other questions.


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