Quake sets new direction

By Yvonne Tahana

A nurse who lost her husband in Christchurch tragedy finds fresh purpose overseas.

Cindy Gibb with Sam Gibb who died in the CTV building. Above, Cindy at work with Doctors Without Borders in Tajikistan. Photo / SUpplied
Cindy Gibb with Sam Gibb who died in the CTV building. Above, Cindy at work with Doctors Without Borders in Tajikistan. Photo / SUpplied

Christchurch's Cindy Gibb made a deal with her husband - one day she'd be able to travel the world to places where nursing skills were in short supply and work.

But that day came sooner than either she or Sam Gibb planned. A journalist in the CTV building, Mr Gibb died in the February 2011 earthquake.

Mrs Gibb, now 30, left the city in November 2011 and for a year worked in Tajikistan, as a nurse with Doctors without Borders.

"I was going to do it years ago and Sam and I just talked and decided we'd get married and have a family, but we had an agreement ... just one day, we didn't know when it would happen, after the kids - I had Sam's full support.

"After the earthquake I knew very quickly that this was the best thing for me to do. You can see it probably as running away a little bit ... but I had to find something to do and I was just really, really lucky that I had something else to fall back on that was so good and so right."

Tajikistan gained its independence after the Soviet Union broke up in 1991 and experienced a civil war during that decade. Mountainous, landlocked with more than seven million people, it remains one of the poorest countries in the region.

It also has one of the highest rates of tuberculosis in the World Health Organisation's European region.

Doctors without Borders estimates between 200 to 250 people per 100,000 have the highly infectious disease.

She was based in the capital, Dushanbe, but travelled extensively throughout the country to treat children. It's an experience that helped her process her feelings away from the collective grief of her home city.

Many live in isolated villages accessible sometimes only by donkeys because of the terrain, may not have electricity in the winter and experience temperatures from below freezing to 40C. But they take pleasure in laying on a spread for visitors, a gift to cherish given that it is only in people's homes that the scale of poverty becomes clear.

"They work really hard because life is hard. The warmth in people's eyes, it sort of overthrows all of that.

"You meet people with the most gorgeous olive skin, and pale green eyes. Old men with big snowy white beards, and these beautifully weathered faces and wearing these thick coats ...

"It's really quite magical, it's such an unknown part of the world and I just feel really privileged I got to spend so much time there."

Mrs Gibb wants to raise the profile of the aid organisation in New Zealand. It survives on donations and provides impartial assistance in countries where people are threatened by violence, neglect, conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, natural disasters or excluded from health care.

On Friday, following a six-week break at home with her parents, she leaves for a child and maternity contract in Pakistan, close to the Afghan border.

She's not overly concerned about her safety even though she acknowledges it will be dangerous. There will be higher security protocols to follow and she'll wear a veil for the entire time she's there. But life is to be lived and that's something her husband understood, she says.

- NZ Herald

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