A British GP, Simon Latham, 39, and his family have relocated from Manchester to Sierra Leone, where they now live aboard a hospital ship providing essential medical care.

Simon, along with his wife Amélie, 43, and their daughters Zara, 14, Héloïse, 12, and Sophie, 10, received an unexpected call in February 2023 that reignited their long-forgotten application to work on a hospital ship. This led them to leave their comfortable life in Sale, Greater Manchester, and move onto the Global Mercy, a charity hospital ship operated by Mercy Ships.

The family sold their four-bedroom home, packed their belongings, and by June 2023, embarked on this life-changing journey. Now docked off the coast of Freetown, Sierra Leone, for nine months, they reflect on the profound impact of their new life. Simon works as a GP on the ship, while Amélie serves as a PE teacher, and their daughters attend the on-board school.

Simon describes the experience as transformational. “I cannot see myself going back to the normal job,” he said. “There is too much that needs to be done in this context to feel like I could go back.” The ship provides life-changing surgeries and medical training in sub-Saharan Africa, where nine out of ten people lack access to safe and affordable surgical care.

Simon’s role now includes caring for the international crew and local patients needing critical surgeries. He recalls a particularly moving experience with a patient who had a disfiguring tumour removed: “Her face lit up when she saw herself in the mirror post-surgery. It was absolutely wonderful to see what it meant to her.”

Amélie also contributes significantly, working in the Low Care Unit (LCU) post-surgery. Their daughters, who attend the ship’s fully accredited academy, have integrated into this new lifestyle, making international friends and even considering future careers in humanitarian work. “All three of the girls now want to do a job where they can help others and give something back,” Amélie said.

The Latham family’s decision has not only changed their lives but also instilled a deep sense of purpose and gratitude. “Life will never be the same again for any of us—and that’s a good thing,” Simon added, reflecting on their profound journey and the lasting impact of their work on the ship.