What would you do if you knew you could never fail? That’s one of those cheesy business motivation pictures that I noticed in someone’s office years ago, but it’s stuck with me. What would I do if I knew I could never fail? Does that mean that by not taking a risk on something, I’m allowing fear to dominate my life? I don’t know but I do know this, there are people that take big risks, and I respect them greatly for it.
Leadership is risky. Moving into the unknown or putting yourself on the line can have terrible consequences, or great ones.
I think the riskiest thing you can do is stay within your comfort zone – Kat
I recently corresponded with a friend of mine who is doing something pretty risky and pretty incredible! Her name is Kat Sotolongo and she’s a Videographer for Mercy Ships.
Hi Kat! What do you do right now?
Right now, I’m the Videographer for Mercy Ships. Mercy Ships is a charity that operates hospital ships; we provide free surgery to countries that lack a proper medical infrastructure. The communications team follows several patients through their journey with us–beginning, middle, and end. Once their story is complete, we send them back to our International Support Center. They edit the videos, copy edit the stories, and publish the photos on social media when they’re reading to highlight one of our patients. I’m privileged to be one of the few departments that gets to walk alongside the patients throughout the entire process. In turn, we get to build deep connections with them.
How did you get to the point in your life where you decided to take such a risky step, and do you think it’s risky?
I think the riskiest thing you can do is stay within your comfort zone; yet, I didn’t realize this until I stepped out of it. There’s this famous quote from A.A. Milne in Winnie the Pooh that states, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” I never realized how true that was until you’re forced to be braver, stronger, and just a little smarter. I thought I couldn’t really do something like this, but just jumped. I was at a point where I was working that 9-5 in a wonderful job. I couldn’t have asked for a better boss, co-workers, or benefits. However, for me, there was something missing. I had wanted to serve with Mercy Ships for four years, and things just lined up where it was clear I should volunteer. I actually pay to work, which sounds so bizarre on paper, but I’ve never been a part of something that’s making such a huge difference.
You let go of things that are trivial, and value the importance of relationship – Kat
I recall the night before leaving to Texas to train before meeting the ship in South Africa. I kept crying, thinking I had made a mistake. Looking back now, I think I was so silly. Cause this experience has changed me, stretched me, and has caused an appropriate level of discomfort to continue making changes in my life, and other people’s lives.
What has been the most surprising benefit of of taking this step of faith?
The biggest surprise for me has been just that: faith/hope (meaning how much people can actually have if that makes sense). In regards to patients, by the time they reach the gangway of the Africa Mercy, this is their last resort. Yet, they never lose hope. Being able to experience that, and being able to walk them through this new season in their life is extraordinary. It also changes your perspective/worldview. You let go of things that are trivial, and value the importance of relationship. I’m pretty sure I’ll live a minimalist lifestyle once I go home to the States.
What countries have you visited and what’s been your favorite country?
Oh dear, I’ve been to a lot of countries. Favorite in terms of vacation? Or people? You can’t pick just one, cause each place has something unique and wonderful about it. Okay, I guess one of my favorite countries would have to be Costa Rica. I went there for an environmental literacy program. The country is so beautiful and the people are vibrant. I’ve been wanting to go back for a while now.
What is it like to live on a ship? It sounds a little surreal. I don’t know if it’s more sailboat or more aircraft carrier.
Lol! So let me give you a little history of Mercy Ships. The M/V Africa Mercy, which is the ship I live on, was a rail ferry that used to be called Dronning Ingrid. The organization transformed it into the largest non-governmental hospital ship in the world. There are approximately 400 people living on the ship, and it feels like a confined model United Nations. You have people from all over the world, from all walks of life. From families, married couples, to singles. Living in community is something I’ve never experienced before, but I love it.
What does the future hold for you?
Good question! I have no clue. I’m hoping to continue being involved with humanitarian organizations using my creative ability in filmmaking. I end my commitment in June, and I have a few things in the works, but nothing official as of yet.
You probably fundraise in order to “pay to work”, so how can someone who’s reading this support you?
All donations are tax deductible, and the money that is donated through this page can only be used for Mercy Ships-related expenses.