Nursing student to help care for poor in India

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 09:47 26/12/2012
Southland Times photo
DOUG FIELD/Fairfax NZ
Nursing student Jessica Hardegger, 20, prepares medical supplies for her trip to India, where she will be volunteering in a rural medical centre.

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While many 20-year-olds are preparing for New Year's Eve parties, one Southland student is packing her bags for an impoverished Indian village.

Jessica Hardegger, a second-year nursing student at Otago Polytechnic, will spend her summer holidays working in a rural medical centre about an hour outside of Calcutta.

"It'll be amazing to see the difference in medical care standards. It's going to be interesting."

She is one of two students from New Zealand volunteering at the centre during January, with another 23 arriving from around the world.

The group will work at the centre for a month, staying in a hut with bucket showers, and training the next batch of volunteers before leaving the country.

Originally from Isla Bank, Miss Hardegger said she had never been to Asia before, but was preparing for some huge differences in day-to-day life.

Despite the heat, cultural beliefs meant women had to wear clothing covering ankles and wrists, and there also was the language barrier, she said.

"Most people will speak English but, with the patients, they might not.

"There's so many things to be worried about but I think I'll just go with it when I get there."

Not only is she sacrificing her summer break to help others, Miss Hardegger also has an extra suitcase full of medical supplies for the centre.

She wrote to Air New Zealand explaining her trip and the airline allowed her to take a further 25kg of luggage, filled with bandages, painkillers and vitamins, for free.

Miss Hardegger's mother Loretta said she was originally worried about her daughter flying to the other side of the world, but she was now proud of her efforts.

"I think it's an opportunity not to be missed. You're always concerned about the safety, but any mother is."

She would take a phone to stay in contact with other students in India, but would not have internet access to check Facebook, she said.

"It will be good to get away from all that."

She returns to New Zealand on February 8, slotting in a week of work before heading back to class.

"It's going to be full on [but] it'll be good. It's such a good opportunity.

"In India, these poor people are screaming out for help."

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