A young couple will be celebrating their love in Madagascar this Valentine’s Day on the world’s largest civilian hospital ship. Vanessa Thomson from Devon, UK, and Seth Schaben from Kansas, USA, fell in love whilst volunteering with international hospital ship charity, Mercy Ships.

How Volunteering Abroad Can Lead to Love

Photo credit: Katie Keegan

Vanessa and Seth’s love has been quite an adventure. After first meeting in Texas, the couple shared their first kiss in Haiti, had their first date in Tenerife, got engaged in Cape Town, and are now set to marry in Devon.

Volunteering Abroad with Mercy Ships

Whilst volunteering on the ship Vanessa, a Ward Nurse, spends much of her time caring for the many suffering patients who visit the hospital ship. Millions of people in Africa suffer at the hands of poverty, as well as a lack of access to medical care. Tumours, burns and facial disfigurements get left untreated, causing severe physical pain and discomfort and often resulting in death.

Seth volunteers at the HOPE Centre as a Facilitator. The HOPE Centre is a secure shelter for patients waiting for surgery or recovering for surgery.

Thanks to volunteers like Vanessa and Seth, Mercy Ships are able to give patients a second chance.

Romance on board Africa Mercy

How Volunteering Abroad Can Lead to Love

Vanessa and Seth just after he proposed in Cape Town

Mercy Ships operates the Africa Mercy – a 16,000 tonne state of the art hospital ship with a crew of more than 450 volunteers from over 40 nations. The ship, currently in Madagascar, sails across Africa to deliver free medical care to those in need.

Seth proposed on the ship whilst it was docked in Cape Town, surprising Vanessa by covering the walls with pressed wild flowers and images of horses, in addition to putting together a picnic of Vanessa’s favourite things (including Cadbury’s chocolate, Twining’s tea and goat’s cheese). They are now making the final plans for their wedding in September in this year. The couple will then return to Madagascar to continue volunteering for Mercy Ships.

Vanessa, said: “Although the ship may not be the easiest place to date someone, the Africa Mercy is a magical place to fall in love. It is such a wonderful environment to meet someone who has the same passion as you; someone who has a desire to serve the world’s forgotten poor in such a unique setting.”

How Volunteering Abroad Can Lead to Love

Photo Credit Katie Keegan

She continued: “It still amazes me that two people from across the world can meet and fall in love. Mercy Ships bought us together and the experience we have shared together will stay with us forever. I am so excited to marry the man of my dreams and come back to the Africa Mercy – I can’t think of a better way to begin married life together!”

 Find out more about Mercy Ships here: www.mercyships.org.uk

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About Author

Nisha Kotecha is the Founder of Good News Shared. Having worked and volunteered for charities in the UK for over 10 years, Nisha is on a mission to highlight how amazing charities are.