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Governor-General to Present Medal to Aid Worker

News Release

12 February 2008

Governor-General to Present Medal to Humanitarian Aid Worker

Friday 15 February will be a special day for New Zealand Red Cross humanitarian aid worker Marianne Whittington. While she’s been to the location of almost every humanitarian crisis that has occurred in the past 17 years including Iraq, Darfur, Afghanistan, Angola, Kenya, Thailand and the former Yugoslavia, she has never been to an afternoon tea at Government House.

The Governor-General, Hon Anand Satyanand, who is Patron of New Zealand Red Cross, will present Marianne Whittington with a Florence Nightingale Medal at Government House in Wellington. The medal is only awarded to fifty people around the world every two years. It is the International Committee of the Red Cross’ (ICRC) highest nursing honour.

The Florence Nightingale Medal, awarded by the ICRC, is given to people who distinguish themselves in times of peace or war by showing exceptional courage and devotion to the wounded, sick or disabled or to civilian victims of conflict or disaster.

A trained nurse, Ms Whittington, who was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2008 New Year Honours, has devoted the past 17 years of her life to humanitarian aid work.
New Zealand Red Cross operations manager Andrew McKie, who nominated Ms Whittington for the medal, says her work in the field over the past 17 years has made a real difference to those who need it most.

“Marianne has undertaken three missions to Afghanistan with New Zealand Red Cross both during and after the Taliban’s rule. Her last mission to Kandahar commenced only months after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York and consequently during a time of considerable tension and uncertainty. For her to volunteer for service in Afghanistan, and particularly Kandahar at this time, demonstrated her commitment to the Red Cross Movement,” says Mr McKie.

The idea of working in a humanitarian role was first planted in Ms Whittington’s mind in 1987 during a trip to Nepal with a friend. During the trip the pair visited the Kunde Hospital, established due to the work of Sir Edmund Hillary and the Himalayan Trust.

Ms Whittington says the hospital and the work the people there were doing for the local community inspired her to come home to New Zealand and search out a humanitarian organisation where she could use her skills as a nurse to help make a difference.

“I am part of a much larger organisation and I have a strong belief in the principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. I believe in the work the International Committee of the Red Cross does in assisting victims of conflict,” she says.

Since deploying on her first humanitarian mission with New Zealand Red Cross to Thailand in 1990, Ms Whittington has completed a further 11 missions to Kenya, Angola, the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Solomon Islands and Iraq.

When not working on a humanitarian mission with New Zealand Red Cross, Marianne is based in Auckland and works as a nurse in the emergency department at Waitakere Hospital.


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