Sum­mer hol­i­day in the streets of Nepal

Matamata Chronicle - - Your Paper, Your Place - REXINE HAWES

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.

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