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Christmas for Kiwi Red Cross aid workers

Christmas for Kiwi Red Cross aid workers: turkeys in Sudan and typhoons in the Philippines

This Christmas, New Zealand Red Cross aid workers are spending the festive season doing everything from trying to figure out how to get a turkey into Sudan, through to preparing to go to the Philippines to provide shelter for those affected by the recent typhoon.

Wendy Hetrick, from Ashburton, will be spending Christmas at the hospital compound in Juba, Sudan with two other Kiwis. They have managed to source a turkey from Nairobi in Kenya, and will also attempt to make pavlova without an egg beater.

"The Europeans are complaining that it will be hot, but for us…no problems," Wendy says.

Malcolm Johnstone, a Kiwi based in Geneva, is on standby to go to the Philippines to help set up shelter for those affected by the recent typhoon and landslides that left thousands without homes.

"Christmas might not even happen this year," he says.

For many of the aid workers, Christmas Day will be work as usual.

Wendy will spend part of the day in the operating theatre at Juba Teaching Hospital which is run by the international Committee of the Red Cross, and also at the United Nations compound e-mailing home.

"I will miss my family very much and I think the telephone communication has been so poor lately I doubt I can call home," Wendy says.

However, despite missing her family, Wendy feels that this Christmas will be a good one.

"No ham, no trifle, no raspberries, but then again that is not what Christmas is all about. For me, I feel lucky every day to be able to do this work, and I see such sadness that I think that my Christmas here will be just fine."

Wellington construction project manager Kevin Duignan is based in Indonesia, and will be there for the two-year anniversary of the Boxing Day tsunami.

"Strangely it is not a public holiday on the day so it will be back to work as usual, albeit a little quiet."

Last year Kevin's Christmas presents did not reach him in Indonesia until February.

"The chocolate was a congealed lump. Those pineapple lumps were still tasty though!"

Kevin will have a potluck dinner on Christmas Eve with a range of international co-workers including those from Hong Kong, Germany, Ireland and Australia.

"We have a turkey and should have all the trappings that we can scrounge up from around the place considering this is a Muslim state and Xmas a foreign idea."

Many of the aid workers say they wish to pass their thanks on to the New Zealand public at Christmas.

"Merry Christmas to everyone there, you all make it possible for us to do this work," Wendy says.


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