Devon Kilkelly can’t wait to return to Africa.
The third-year Bachelor of Nursing student at Otago Polytechnic heads to a small fishing village in northern Malawi in late June to celebrate the official opening of a new nursery school building.
The visit is the latest step in a journey that began in 2015 when Devon embarked on a gap year that took her to Ngara, a fishing village of about 4000 people on the shores of Lake Malawi.
The six months Devon spent there have been transformative – both for her and the village.
Devon taught biology and geography at the village high school, helped out at the preschool (called Ngara Nursery) and worked at the local healthcare clinic.
And witnessing the healthcare needs of the Ngara community prompted Devon to choose nursing as a career when she returned to New Zealand.
In the three years since she first visited Malawi, she has funded the renovation of Ngara nursery school, implemented and funded daily breakfast (porridge) for the children attending and provided a teacher and resources for Ngara Nursery.
“The number of children at the nursery has dramatically increased since 2015, from 20 to a current roll of 125 children,” Devon says.
“All of these children now have a fun, safe and educational environment, enhancing their development.”
Last year, Devon won a Seven Sharp ASB Good as Gold Award of $10,000. As a direct result of that exposure, she was gifted a children’s playground by Park Supplies, Auckland.
"I am travelling to Malawi with my parents and partner (Tomas) to erect the playground and open the new nursery school building,” Devon explains.
“We are also going to be spending time working alongside the health professionals in the village clinic, where I was first inspired to study a Bachelor of Nursing.”
"As my mother is a pharmacist and Tomas and I are third-year nursing students, we will use our combined knowledge to support safe practice and safe healthcare in Ngara."
Devon is also in the process of founding an organisation called "Supporting A Future", with the intention of undertaking new projects within the Ngara community. These include starting a pen pal project with Ngara Nursery and a kindergarten in Greymouth, where Devon grew up.
Devon is currently working in collaboration with Deep South Technology to develop a website and hopes to launch Supporting A Future on her return to New Zealand in July.