Making a difference: From Chch Hospital to Uganda

Villa Maria College past student Nicole Smit has been working with impoverished communities in...
Villa Maria College past student Nicole Smit has been working with impoverished communities in Uganda. Photo: Facebook
Christchurch nurse Nicole Smit has seen many things she will never forget while working in poverty-stricken Uganda.

From telling a pregnant woman she is HIV positive to watching a man die on a hospital waiting room floor because no one would pay the bill for his treatment, these are just a few of the difficult situations she has faced while volunteering as a registered nurse in the African country.

But Miss Smit, who lives in Redwood, finds inspiration from a quote that continually encourages her to help anyone less fortunate than herself: “To make a difference in this world, you don’t have to be brilliant, rich or perfect, you just have to care.”

That is why at 28-years-old, the former Villa Maria College student has travelled to Uganda three times to make a difference to the health of impoverished families.

On Sunday, she returned home after six weeks working in remote villages and slums around Kampala – the capital of Uganda.

“What I do here is certainly very different to what I do when working in a hospital in a first-world country,” Miss Smit said.

On days when she travels around Kampala with a local doctor to provide medical treatment and testing for HIV and malaria, she will see 100 patients in a few hours.

Twice a week, she would work alongside a charity providing wound care and treatment to more than 10,000 children living on the streets.

“There are many prevalent health problems here that I had never dealt with at home due to the living conditions here of a large number of the population,” she said.

Nicole Smit at work in Uganda. Photo: Facebook
Nicole Smit at work in Uganda. Photo: Facebook
But Miss Smit and her colleagues have managed to make a difference.

Within a one-month period, she delivered more than 1500 preventative de-worming tablets to local school children to minimise the risk them contracting a worm infection.

Another major highlight was helping to build a medical centre in a small village on the outskirts of Kampala with three other volunteers.

Miss Smit said one of the biggest things she has taken away from her experiences overseas is what we take for granted at home.

She said examples of this include the importance of washing your hands and drinking clean water each day to stay hydrated.

“I don’t remember specifically being taught either of these things, it was just part of growing up for everyone around me,” Miss Smit said.

She first travelled to Uganda in 2017 after studying a Bachelor of Nursing and working as a registered nurse for nearly three years in the South Island Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Christchurch Hospital.

Growing up, Miss Smit never thought she would one day become a registered nurse, but now she could not imagine doing anything else.

In 2018, she was the first recipient of the Villa Maria Past Pupil’s Association Mercy Grant and was named one of Zonta International’s 100 Women of Achievement last year.

“These two privileges mean so much to me because my dream is that I might inspire even one person to make their small mark on the world, which in turn could mean the absolute world to one person.”

 

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