Thursday 28 February 2019: A desire to do something more to help others has led Packenham nurse Karen Thompson to the other side of the world to volunteer on board a hospital ship.

An RN in the operating theatres at St John of God Hospital in Berwick, Ms Thompson spent two weeks serving as part of the crew of the Africa Mercy docked on the coast of the West African nation of Guinea.

“My daughter was scared of me going but my fears of travelling to Africa were eased after arriving and meeting such caring people.”

Operated by the international medical charity Mercy Ships, the Africa Mercy is the largest non-governmental hospital ship in the world.

“The work of Mercy Ships is so important as it changes people’s lives; it gives people back their hope and reminded me to be grateful for what I have.”

The Africa Mercy arrived in the port city of Conakry, Guinea, in August 2018 with plans to provide 2,500 life-changing surgeries on board, treat over 8,000 people at a land-based dental clinic and provide health care training to local medical professionals during 10 months in port.

Supported by friends and work colleagues during her journey, Ms Thompson was also sponsored by the hospital auxiliary.

She says the only regret she has is not serving longer, which is why she has already applied to volunteer with Mercy Ships again.

“I am returning in April 2020 to serve in Senegal for a month.”


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.