Volunteer nurse Amy Cleary, 24, says she is a changed person now she has returned from six months on board a hospital ship in West Africa.
The former Rangitoto College student lived on the Africa Mercy in Conakry, Guinea, in what was her second three month stint with humanitarian organisation Mercy Ships.
Mercy Ships New Zealand is part of a global network providing aid and health care to people in poverty.
After graduating from AUT Miss Cleary spent two years in the orthopaedic ward at Starship children's hospital before taking up her first voluntary mission in Togo.
"I quite often feel like I'm receiving more than I am giving," she says.
The ship Africa Mercy contains six operating theatres, an intensive care ward and a low dependency ward with a total of 78 beds.
Miss Cleary shared a room with six others who provided a variety of free services including surgery, dental care, eye care and training programmes.
Many of the patients have been neglected or alienated as a result of their conditions, she says.
"Whether it be a large facial tumour, a cleft lip on a 25-year-old or legs that bend the wrong way, these patients come to us broken and shameful.
"Physically we do our best to fix the abnormality, but more importantly we get the opportunity to love them and start the process of healing emotionally."
Even on her days off, Miss Cleary says she enjoyed spending time with patients.
"We dance together, we cry together, we paint their nails and love them in every way we can."
As she approached the end of her adventure, Miss Cleary says the ship began to feel like a home away from home.
The spirit of the African people, she says will also stick with her.
- © Fairfax NZ News