They lost their homes and loved ones, but Sri Lankans affected by the Boxing Day tsunami have not given up hope of rebuilding their lives.
Kaitaia nurses Terina Gladding and Raina Kitchen have spent 10 days working in relief camps around Batticaloa, on Sri Lanka's east coast, and came away bowled over by the Sri Lankans' positive attitude.
"They're so resilient. They want to get on with it and there's a lot of hope," Mrs Gladding said.
"They have been through a civil war and this is one more thing for them to deal with."
More than 290,000 people died around the Indian Ocean when a tsunami struck on December 26. Sri Lanka was one of the worst-hit areas, prompting the nurses to want to help out.
"They're beautiful people - they have gone through heaps," Mrs Kitchen said.
Mrs Gladding and Mrs Kitchen are nurses for Kaitaia Maori health provider Te Hauora o Te Hiku o Te Ika.
Thanks to their fellow healthworker, Dr Michael Hall, arranging to work at relief camps in Sri Lanka, the experienced nurses grabbed at the chance to travel to the ravaged east coast.
Fellow Te Hauora o Te Hiku o Te Ika workers Roger Barton and Monique Kaupa also travelled to Sri Lanka to help out.
All four workers paid for their expenses.
Mrs Gladding and Mrs Kitchen - the mother of New Zealand squash champion Shelley Kitchen - spent about $2000 each on the trip.
The pair arrived in Sri Lanka on January 12 to see "a lot of devastation" - flattened homes, debris, washed-out roads and ravaged pastures everywhere.
Their work consisted of travelling about six hours a day - in stifling 30degC-plus heat - to make-shift camps around Batticaloa, helping patients with wounds such as severe bruises and chest infections.
Some of the injured had walked kilometres to receive medical help. Many of the injured received their wounds when the tsunami threw them against buildings, the nurses said.
A number of the relief camps had rudimentary facilities such as basic tents for injured people to sleep in.
Some of the relief camps were in separatist Tamil Tiger country, where the rebels carried guns around in a "tense" atmosphere.
But the nurses did not feel their lives were at risk as the rebels knew the two were helping people.
"When you get there, you realise how bad the situation is as it was dangerous. There were guns everywhere," Mrs Gladding said.
The pair had no regrets about going and would jump at the chance to help out in a similar environment again.
Images of the trip would never leave them, especially a fisherman Mrs Kitchen talked to on a beach.
"He had lost his wife and house but he still had three children.
"He had no boat and he was absolutely devastated as he had no money and neither did his relatives ... It was just the look in his eyes," Mrs Kitchen said.
Since arriving home, Mrs Kitchen and Mrs Gladding have found a new appreciation for life, especially the fact New Zealanders have a welfare system and drinkable tap water.
Mrs Kitchen had never been that fond of Kaitaia tap water - but now she has a new-found appreciation.
"The first thing I did when I got home was have a drink of Kaitaia water," Mrs Kitchen said.
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