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20 Year Service Medal for Maureen Thurlow

February 11, 2019 February 2019 No Comments

Maureen Thurlow was presented with the Red Cross Twenty Years Service Medal by Branch President Brian Love at the branch’s volunteer Christmas morning tea. Geoff Cave of Carterton received an Award for ten  years service.  

Brian thanked members for volunteering for Red Cross and welcomed a very special guest speaker Jenny Percival.  Jenny is a Wairarapa District Health Nurse Educator, has always had a passion for humanitarian aid work and on three occasions in the past five years has spent time overseas working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC),
        Jenny spoke of her decision to become an aid worker,  she had been in the nursing profession for some time when one evening while she was watching a TV programme about the Red Cross made the decision to volunteer her services.
          The first of her three deployments came in 2014 a month spent in Sierra Leone at the time of the Ebola epidemic there.  This was a stressful time, Jenny said.’We had a tent hospital, and there was little escape from the heat’. The hospital was in the diamond mining area; so it was noisy from explosions and very dusty.  ‘We could not see the sky.’ 

Ebola meant lots of very sick people and many tragic deaths; so it was a joy to see survivors.  The team needed to multi-task, infection prevention was paramount, plus helping deal with corpses and families of the dead.  Returning  to New Zealand she realised how lucky we are to have a clean environment, rubbish disposal and a police force that isn’t corrupt.  
         Jenny’s second deployment was for six months in South Sudan in a surgical team. Tribal civil war made travel risky and resulted in lots of refugees in a poor underdeveloped country.  

        She worked first in the capital, Juba and then in a field hospital which was a tent.  With war raging there were lots of patients with burns, gunshot wounds and many with fractures.  She emphasised that one of the tragedies of a war such as this that it doesn’t discriminate between which people are affected; age, gender,social standing make no difference.  

Early 2018 Jenny’s third trip was completed- a month in Bangladesh this time to work at the Red Crescent Hospital set up near the refugee camp home to hundreds of thousands of people who fled from violence in Myanmar, forced to escape because of their religious beliefs.  

This was the only surgical hospital there.  This hospital was also in a tent with no electricity and with generators cranking away day and night, it was very hot.  Even showering two or three times a day Jenny said you always felt dirty, but interestingly things did become normal.

                  Returning from Bangladesh  Jenny felt jaded and disheartened.  She wondered why the Red Cross was supporting countries which would continue to accept help as long as it is available. However she realised that what was so important and worthwhile was the help provided to individuals who suffer through no fault of their own.
           In all three deployments Jenny also trained local nurses so that the work could continue. The political side may be insoluble but each of us can still do what we can- even the little things make a difference.  And they are being done everywhere- even locally, and she thanked the volunteers for what they do here in the Wairarapa, perhaps not as dramatic as her experiences but still much needed and appreciated.
The morning concluded with a delightful morning tea.

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