Ayrton Damong fell in love with the ocean as a young man, during a year when he worked as a fisherman based out of a small boat. It was in that boat that Ayrton first discovered his calling. The 23-year-old vividly recalls seeing a large ship sail by his village near the capital city of Port Moresby. He told his cousin he wished he could be onboard. His cousin said simply, “Maybe one day you will.”
So Ayrton began planning. “I told my Dad about a maritime school up in Madang,” he said, “We sold our Land Rover, and that paid for my fees to attend the college.”
But after graduating as a marine engineering cadet in 2017, Ayrton found a tough job market. “I applied to a bunch of companies,” he said, “but they wanted someone with more experience.” Ayrton and his family had sacrificed much for his career, so each rejection was devastating.
Months passed, and Ayrton began to wonder if he had made a mistake. “I was starting to lose hope,” he said. That’s when he heard about YWAM’s medical ship, the MV YWAM PNG. He sent in a volunteer application and waited, clinging to the hope that someone would give him a chance. That was early 2018.
November 2018 found Ayrton strolling the decks of the MV YWAM PNG, a proud member of the ship’s dedicated marine engineering team. “It’s amazing,” he said, “every day has a new challenge… and I have definitely gained confidence in my trade.” One of his highlights was replacing the ship’s engines last month. “It was quite the challenge,” he laughed, “but we got through and successfully installed both new engines.”
Ayrton is thankful YWAM not only gave him the opportunity to practice his trade but also to join forces with other skilled volunteers to bring health to Papua New Guinea’s rural majority. “It’s truly a blessing serving onboard YWAM PNG,” Ayrton wrote. “I’m amazed how so many people from different countries and cultures come together [to serve]…with one purpose, and that is to care, connect, serve, and build.”