Kiwi life put into per­spec­tive

Central Leader - - NEWS - By KA­RINA ABADIA

Vol­un­teer­ing on the world’s largest civil­ian hos­pi­tal ship was a great ad­ven­ture for mar­ried cou­ple Aaron and Tracy Huang but it also helped them gain a lit­tle per­spec­tive on their own lives.

Mercy Ships op­er­ates the 16,000 tonne hos­pi­tal ship Africa Mercy. It is crewed by 450 vol­un­teer per­son­nel and has six op­er­at­ing theatres and three wards.

The in­ter­na­tional char­ity pro­vides free sur­gi­cal and health care ser­vices to the poor­est peo­ple in a dif­fer­ent West African na­tion each year. The ship was sta­tioned in Con­akry, the cap­i­tal of Guinea in West Africa.

The ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing in the third world coun­try made the One Tree Hill cou­ple ap­pre­cia­tive of life in New Zealand. They say they don’t tend to fret over the lit­tle things now.

The Huangs worked on the ship for seven weeks from April 6 to May 25 and went on to travel in Europe be­fore re­turn­ing to Auck­land ear­lier this month.

Mrs Huang is a nurse so she was able to put her skills to good use on the wards.

One pa­tient in par­tic­u­lar made an im­pres­sion. Hasanatu, or Mama H as she was af­fec­tion­ately known, was an el­derly woman who was wait­ing to have a tu­mour the size of a football re­moved from the side of her face.

‘‘She was re­ally cheeky. She had a bit of a fiery per­son­al­ity but she just made me laugh. You wouldn’t see a tu­mour that size here.

‘‘The cost of health­care in Guinea is un­af­ford­able for many peo­ple there so they tend to just leave things,’’ she says.

Mr

Huang

was thrown into an un­fa­mil­iar work­ing en­vi­ron­ment. His skills as a chi­ro­prac­tor were not re­quired on the ship so he worked as a stew­ard. His main du­ties in­cluded food prepa­ra­tion and do­ing dishes.

‘‘It did get a lit­tle bit mun­dane but the thing is that the lo­cal peo­ple you meet and the sto­ries you hear while work­ing make it worth­while.’’

They both en­joyed go­ing on or­gan­ised ex­cur­sions to or­phan­ages and the pae­di­atric hos­pi­tal where they would read sto­ries to the chil­dren or do craft ac­tiv­i­ties with them.

‘‘You would just step in the gate and lots of the kids were so ex­cited, it was a real high­light of their week,’’ Mrs Huang says.

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