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Joyce Hood – continuing the Nightingale legacy

11-08-2010 Feature

Iraq, Afghanistan, Kenya, Timor Leste, South Ossetia: these are places that have endured years of armed conflict or other violence, places where many people have suffered. As in most regions beset by conflict, health-care systems have broken down and access to other basic services is limited. Joyce Hood is an ICRC health delegate from New Zealand who has worked as a nurse in all five places, providing sick and wounded people with the compassionate care they need.

  Video of Joyce's work in South Ossetia

  Joyce on a periodic visit to bring medical care to isolated elderly people in South Ossetia.    
  Joyce Hood outside the ICRC-supported Mirwais Regional Hospital in Kandahar during one of her four missions to Afghanistan.    
  Joyce treating a patient in South Ossetia.    

One of the chief tasks of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is to provide health-care services in crisis situations all over the world. The care is provided by exceptionally motivated individuals who yearn to help their communities or, like Joyce Hood, to travel to some of the world's most beleaguered places to help those suffering the effects of armed conflict or natural disaster.

In recognition of her extraordinary commitment, courage and devotion, Joyce Hood was nominated by the New Zealand Red Cross to receive the highest distinction a nurse working in armed conflict or natural disaster can receive – the Florence Nightingale Medal.

 Amazed by the generosity of those she serves  

" I am very humbled to be awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal. The work I do with the Red Cross is very rewarding and I get just as much from it as I give, " said Ms Hood upon learning she had been selected to receive the medal in 2009. " The people are amazing in all the places I have visited. Despite having little, they are very generous. They have known nothing but hostilities for many years, which is so sad. It is very difficult for the families, but despite this they remain very giving. "

 Entering the golden age but still going strong  

When you meet Joyce, now 67, you can't help but be struck by her warmth, caring spirit and energy. At an age when most people are ready to take it easy and retire, she is going strong.

" I enjoy it. I like working with the people. I've had a pretty good life and I wanted to give something back. It's a challenge, but I'm not alone. I work with people from all over the world and they're not just nurses – they're water and sanitation engineers, administrators, or logistics coordinators. It is nice to work with such a diverse team towards a common purpose. "

In nominating Ms Hood for the medal, New Zealand Red Cross International Operations Manager Andrew McKie said that her life had been one of hard work and service to others. He noted that she had carried out many of her missions in areas considered highly volatile and dangerous.

" Joyce has undertaken four missions to Afghanistan, both during and after the Taliban rule. These missions were understandably conducted under difficult circumstances, " said Mr McKie. " She's devoted many years of her life to helping people affected by armed conflict. "

Ms Hood is currently in South Ossetia, on her 12th mission with the ICRC, where she is taking part in home nursing programmes and assisting with the transfer of patients needing urgent medical attention.


 Satisfaction and gratitude  

" To me it's very satisfying. These people do not have huge expectations like people in developed countries. They really appreciate what we do for them, " said Ms Hood. " In many countries, nurses are not given any responsibility – they only do menial tasks – so we make the effort to train and empower them. We push nurses to take responsibility. The benefit to everyone is immense. "

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