SEE YOU, I?M OFF TO ACEH
By NERIDA BLOK
NATHAN WILLIS believed he had no choice but to drop everything and help when he heard about the Asian tsunamis.
On New Year's Eve, the Alstonville nurse gave his boss one hour's notice and flew to Indonesia to join a Christian aid organisation in Aceh, the epicentre of the tsunami disaster zone.
Yesterday he spoke to The Northern Star from Banda Aceh where he is treating wounds, distributing food and helping plan relief operations.
In a brief phone call he illustrated the extent of the devastation: "I'm 9km from the beach and there's a water mark 1.5-metre high up the outside of a house wall," he said.
Nathan, along with Lismore mate and fellow nurse, Brendan Grey, are among thousands of Australians volunteering to join relief efforts in the disaster zone.
And, despite his abrupt departure, Nathan said his employer, Maranoa Nursing Hostel, supported the trip and was continuing to pay his wages.
Despite being in the country for only three days, Nathan said he had been amazed by the generosity of people they had met.
"A Dutch businessman donated the truck to transport the supplies and a Japanese pharmaceutical sales rep we met at the factory gave us money for medicine," he said.
Getting just 10 hours sleep since arriving, Nathan said they would do whatever was needed.
"We are prepared for everything ? we've got body bags and shovels," he said.
Nathan's wife, Sandra, said her husband had been involved in medical missions in East Timor and had worked on a refugee camp in Thailand.
"I am getting pretty used to it," she said.
"But this one is pretty full-on ? thinking about what they're going to be exposed to."
Working as a clinical team leader at Maranoa Nursing Hostel, Alstonville, Nathan said he had an open ticket in case they were needed for longer.
"The plan is to return January 9 when another team arrives," he said.
"We aren't planning to stay much longer, but if my employer was happy to let me I would definitely stay."
He praised Maranoa for giving him leave and paying his wages.