Every six months or so Lydia Snell packs up a van loaded to the brim with unwanted medical supplies from Whakatāne Hospital bound for countries less developed than New Zealand.

It's a ritual the paediatric liaison nurse has been doing for around ten years, and one she never tires of.

"I'm one of those people who can't stand wastage. I couldn't as a child and I can't still. For me, it's a labour of love. I'm passionate about helping people," she said.

Ms Snell usually works alongside a social worker to ensure children and their families in the Eastern Bay of Plenty have access to the appropriate health interventions they might require, both in the hospital and in the community.


Over the years Ms Snell has also become renowned at the hospital and within the wider community as the 'go-to' person for organising a new home for surplus medical supplies.

Ms Snell takes the surplus medical supplies and equipment to Auckland where they're dispatched by Medical Aid Abroad.

"The tricky thing is finding space to store things."

Unopened incontinence products, cord clamps, old style crutches, and walking frames are among the list of goods that are packed up. Pharmaceuticals are strictly off the list.

Medical Aid Aborad stores manager Dr Mary Joku Ponifasio said Ms Snell seemed to have a knack of producing medical supplies developing countries have requested.

"Somehow she brings something that is needed for overseas which I don't have available in store. Last year, a hospital in Papua New Guinea urgently needed an infant incubator. I thought of letting the PNG hospital know, that we didn't have one to give, until Lydia showed up with one packed nicely in her van."

In Ms Snell's most recent trip to Auckland, tucked amongst 20 pairs of old crutches and boxes of medical supplies, she and her husband had squeezed in an old steriliser machine that had been passed on from one of the Whakatāne health centres and had not been used for some time.

Dr Ponifasio said she had been searching for a steriliser for two months, and there it was, "like a prayer answered."

Through Medical Aid Aboard and people across the country like Ms Snell, much-needed medical supplies were provided to more than 30 developing countries across the South Pacific region as well as Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Ms Snell hoped to one day follow a package of medical supplies to one of the developing countries to see how they were being put to good use.