Summer holiday in the streets of Nepal
While most New Zealanders were enjoying their summer break, Anna Watkins was hundreds of miles away helping people affected by leprosy.
The 20-year-old former Matamata College student travelled to Nepal in January on a twoweek scholarship with Leprosy Mission NZ.
She is a third-year nursing student at Otago Polytechnic and her long-term goal is providing medical care to those who don’t have access to it.
Nepal is her second mission trip, her first was to Uganda, Africa in January 2015, which was a dream come true.
‘‘When I was about 10-yearsold a Sunday School teacher told us about her daughter who was teaching people how to farm in Zambia, I always thought that was the sort of thing I wanted to do.’’
Watkins says she feels for people dealing with stigma of having a disease, such as leprosy and until her trip, she wasn’t fully aware of the total cost to sufferers.
‘‘People get kicked out of the community, they lose their jobs and it’s still a valid reason for people to divorce, so many people lose their families.
‘‘It is minimally contagious in the first stages. After two days of being treated with the multi-drug therapy, they are no longer contagious.
‘‘People were very positive about our presence. They are so touched that people on the other side of the world cared about their situation.’’
The scholarship was less about providing medical care, and more about being a witness to the plight of people affected by leprosy and raising awareness and funds.
The mountainous ranges of Nepal, mean many people cannot gain access to medical care. The mission team which travelled to Nepal ahead of Watkins, fundraised for a vehicle to fix the issues around isolation, transporting patients to and from medical centres.
The group she travelled with is currently fundraising $30,000 for an x-ray machine which would enable health workers to see the affects and severity of leprosy on bone mass.
‘‘Leprosy attacks the nerves, so they [sufferers] lose feeling. Unattended cuts can get infected which can lead to bone reabsorption if the infection is severe, leaving them with stumps.
‘‘It’s a good way to help something tangible.’’ -
Former Matamata College student Anna Watkins, has just returned from a mission in Nepal.