Thursday 8 March 2018: New Farm’s Sanchia Watchorn is on her way home to Brisbane after spending the last two months volunteering on board the world’s largest independent hospital ship in Central Africa.

A paediatric RN on the Cardiac Critical Care Ward of Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, Miss Watchorn knew from a young age that she wanted to care for people in developing countries.

“After growing up listening to my Mum’s stories of her nursing career in Australia and London, I was inspired to follow in her footsteps,” Miss Watchorn said.

“I remember learning in my health lessons at school about the statistics on health care, or lack of, in developing countries compared to Australia.”

“This was a motivating factor in commencing studies in health care and undertaking my nursing profession, knowing that the skills and knowledge I would acquire would enable me to travel and work in developing countries.”

She studied nursing in Tasmania and started her career at Royal Hobart Hospital, working in oncology and palliative care.

“This was a hugely confronting experience, with over 160 deaths in my initial six months.”

“I questioned my decision to continue nursing and applied to study law, medicine, speech pathology, and perhaps every other university course possible! But I decided to apply for a job on the paediatric ward in hope that my love for children would rekindle my nursing passion and it did.”

Determined to further her education, Miss Watchorn then completed post-graduate studies before relocating to Queensland. Her experience at Lady Cilento further inspired and prepared her for the trip to Africa with Mercy Ships, the non-profit organisation that operates the Africa Mercy.

Working as a paediatric ward nurse on board, Miss Watchorn has cared for patients pre- and post-surgery for conditions like burn contracture injuries, limb amputations, large and life-threatening tumours, as well as paediatric patients receiving cleft pallet and cleft lip repairs.

“I came to Africa with very few expectations; I knew it would be challenging, eye opening, and so very different from anything I had ever experienced before in my life”

The Africa Mercy docked in the port city of Douala, Cameroon, in August 2017 with plans to provide almost 4,000 thousand life-changing surgeries onboard our hospital ship, to treat over 8,000 at a land-based dental clinic as well as providing health care training to local medical professionals.

While it is Miss Watchorn’s first time serving with Mercy Ships, many of the charity’s volunteers have served several times.

“The main surgeon, Dr. Gary Parker, is approaching 30 years aboard the ship, with his whole family growing up on board. The majority of people here have served previously, with many returning for a fifth or sixth time!”

“I have learnt here in Africa that wherever we are from, whatever language we may speak, or whatever challenges life has dealt us, we all need and respond to care and love… and music and dancing!”

“The patients here are always smiling, happy and joyful, despite suffering some of the most extreme and life-threatening health conditions I have ever seen.”

“My time serving aboard the Mercy Ship has been amazing; it has been a rollercoaster of highs and lows, overwhelming at times and a huge challenge personally, physically, emotionally, culturally, and professionally.”

“Despite the obvious challenges, I will consider returning, however have made no plans as yet!”


About Mercy Ships

Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class health care services, capacity building and sustainable development aid to those without access in the developing world. Founded in 1978, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1.3 billion, with more than 2.56 million direct beneficiaries. Each year, more than 1,200 volunteers from over 40 nations serve with Mercy Ships. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, health care trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time. Mercy Ships Australia, one of 16 international support offices, is based on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. For more information, visit

For further information, please contact:

Melissa Mason
National Office Manager
Mercy Ships Australia
(07) 5437 2992
[email protected]

High resolution photos are available upon request, with attribution to Mercy Ships.