Three Far North Health workers have given up their holidays to help tsunami relief efforts in Sri Lanka.
The trio, from Kaitaia Maori health provider Te Hauora o Te Hiku o Te Ika, were taking leave without pay and paid their own way to help provide medical care to survivors of the Boxing Day tsunami that devastated large parts of Asia and killed more than 156,000 people.
Child health nurse Raina Kitchen and mental health nurse Te Rina Gladding flew out from Auckland on Tuesday for Sri Lanka and will be joined by Te Hiku's clinical manager Roger Barton at the end of the week.
They will join fellow Te Hiku worker, doctor Michael Hall, who left for Sri Lanka on January 2.
Mr Barton said the four were moved by the tsunami disaster and felt compelled to do something. They will work at Batticaloa, on Sri Lanka's east coast, where the tsunami killed 20,000 people and made 250,000 homeless.
"When we got the news (on Boxing Day), we were sitting down discussing it and said we don't just want to send money - we wanted to do something more but wondered what," he said.
When Mr Barton found out that the big aid agencies were not wanting volunteers to go to the areas, he contacted Auckland Hospital, hoping that some doctors and nurses there may have the same idea.
From there, he was put him in touch with Middlemore Hospital's head of vascular surgery, Peter Vann, a native Sri Lankan who was about to leave for Sri Lanka himself to help the relief effort.
Dr Hall teamed up with Mr Vann when he arrived in Sri Lanka last week and the two have established a relief operations base in a church at Batticaloa.
The trip, which will be far from a holiday, is costing each of them several thousand dollars and Mr Barton said any financial help or sponsorship from the public or companies would be greatly appreciated.
"We want to try to get a four-wheel-drive to help us get around there as they have nothing. Also we want to get a large water storage tank to keep a good supply of clean water, because they have nothing like that there," he said
"It's been quite difficult (raising the money to make the trip) but we are all determined and want to help."
Mr Barton said several other Far North nurses were keen to follow them out to Sri Lanka, but could be prevented because of a lack of funds.
He is realistic about what to expect when he gets to Sri Lanka, having been kept up to date on the devastation by Dr Hall.
"He said that on each incoming tide, more bodies are brought in and the stench is pretty bad. Also there are still villages that have not been reached yet so there are some pretty terrible things to come," Mr Barton said.
"We know we are likely to come across some pretty horrific things, but we are prepared for it."
One of the biggest problems Dr Hall had reported was a lack of co-ordination of relief efforts, which all four hoped to improve.
Mrs Kitchen's husband, Colin Kitchen, said his wife was so touched by the tragedy of the tsunami that she just had to do something practical to help.
"We were quite shocked and moved by all the destruction there and couldn't understand a disaster of this nature," Mr Kitchen said.
Anybody wanting to contribute to Te Hiku's Tsunami Appeal fund can make a donation at the ASB Bank in Kaitaia or contact Mr Barton on firstname.lastname@example.org
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