Recommended NZ | Guide to Money | Gimme: Competitions - Giveaways

Lead chaplain at Hawke's Bay Hospital now published author

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Barbara Walker has a Queen’s Service Order (QSO) and is a fellow of the New Zealand College of Nurses Aotearoa. She has spent 20-plus years as an aid worker and missionary nurse and midwife in often appalling conditions in war-torn and disease-ravaged countries and in mission hospitals in Africa. Barbara has a Masters in Medical Anthropology and is now a published author.

Not bad for a little girl with dyslexia born in Riverton - a tiny town just about as far south as you can go in New Zealand without hitting Stewart Island.

New Zealand-trained nurse and midwife Barbara has been the Lead chaplain at Hawke’s Bay Hospital since 2009. Her return followed two decades of working in places as diverse as Thailand - with refugees fleeing the Pol Pot regime; Vietnam - working on a ship rescuing and caring for boat people trying to escape the North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam; and in Somalia - providing health care to refugees in the war-torn countries that make up the Horn of Africa, working on the Afghan Pakistan Border as a midwife and overseeing a medical program in Mozambique. While working in Mozambique in 1996 Barbara received a death threat and was evacuated back to NZ.

They were places where Barbara saw horrific conditions and a great deal of death and severe illness. Often there were no doctors and few nurses to look after tens of thousands of people suffering from illness, conditions compounded by the lack of food and drinking water. But conversely, saving lives, bringing babies into the world, supporting people at all of their life stages, and the knowledge that she was fulfilling God’s plan for her, made it bearable and, at times, wonderful.

From the age of 13 Barbara had her heart set on becoming a missionary nurse, following a close encounter with God at a Christian camp. Her faith has been the guiding light throughout her life. God has deployed her across the world, often in directions she was not expecting.

And He might even have had a hand in the book’s 2020 publication date. It was meant to be published last year, however a number of things delayed that, and now it is being published in the World Health Organization’s International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

"It couldn’t be more fitting," says Barbara. "This book honours the work that nurses and midwives do across the world, particularly those working in the most challenging conditions with people who, without their help, would not have medical care."

Her book about her experiences, many years in the thinking and five years in the writing, is being officially launched on July 11, in the Cushing Foyer at Toitoi Hastings Hawke’s Bay.

And the reason for the title Purple Hands?

You will need to read the book, specifically chapter 19, to discover the answer!

All articles and comments on have been submitted by our community of users. Please notify us if you believe an item on this site breaches our community guidelines.