Purple Hands – Print

Purple Hands: A Kiwi Nurse-Midwife’s Response in Times of Crisis.

Barbara Walker QSO

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Print book publication details

Publishing:  10 July 2020
Language: English
NZ Print edition:
B/W text, 12 pages colour photos, total 206 pages

US Print-on-demand and International print editions:
B/W text & photos (no colour), total 206 pages

NZ Print edition: 9781988572420
US Print-on-demand edition: 9798654976949
International Print edition: 9781988572468

NZ $35.00 + p&p

New Zealand Customers
NZ$35.00 plus postage**

Australian Customers
NZ$48.88 including airmail postage

Rest of the World Customers
NZ$62.40 including airmail postage


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Retailers & Libraries: In New Zealand and other countries

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ISBN 9781988572468. Retail price: US$14.99, less your usual Ingram trade discount. 

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Barbara (on right) and guests at her book launch in Napier 11 July 2020.

Book Description

What is life like for aid workers who gather from around the world to serve refugees who have fled their homes due to famine, political unrest, and disasters?

Kiwi nurse-midwife, Barbara Walker – who spent 20 years working for international aid agencies – shares her dramatic, heart-rending, and inspiring stories of the situations she faced and the people she sought to help.

From the Sakeo One Refugee Camp in Thailand, where she cared for those fleeing Pol Pot’s regime in Cambodia in a make-shift bamboo-framed field hospital, to her last placement in Mozambique that ended due to a death threat, Barbara’s Christian faith gave her strength and kept her focussed.

We also learn of Barbara’s early life in New Zealand, and her later call to ordained ministry as a chaplain when she returned after serving overseas.

Barbara hopes that her story will inspire and encourage all who read it to think outside the square and seek to make a difference in the world in which we all live. 

Post COVID-19, we all have a chance to move forward, working together to address the inequalities which she has seen around the world and here in her country of Aotearoa New Zealand. We cannot make changes alone, but by listening, sharing, building trust, and working in partnership, we can make a difference for all. It’s up to us all.

Praise for Purple Hands

“You are in for a riveting read. Expect to laugh a lot and maybe cry a bit. Barbara, one of my former highly valued colleagues in Pakistan, is one of God’s more intrepid and dedicated servants.” Ruth Coggan MB, ChB, FRCOG, OBE, SQA

“Every now and then God sends into the world a special person, a high achiever with a great passion for demonstrating Christian work. Barbara is that person.

Barbara sometimes lived on the edge of war zones. She took her extraordinary nursing and administration skills into desperate situations around world. Her resilience, bravery and perseverance are a shining light, benefiting humanity in many different countries.”
Rosemary Holt (Fellow aid worker)

About the Author

Barbara Walker was called by God to become a missionary nurse at the early age of 13. Little did she know that she would end up working in some of the toughest places in the world over several years.

She has had a multitude of roles including nurse, midwife, eye surgeon, anaesthetist, dentist, car mechanic, vet, plumber, carpenter, health manager, and she is also an Anglican Priest.

Presently, Barbara is Lead Chaplain at the Hawkes Bay Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital in Hastings, New Zealand, and a Regional Chaplain Manager for the Interchurch Council for Hospital Chaplaincy.

The Bible verse, 1 Thessalonians 5:24 “The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.” has remained very special for Barbara. It has given her great strength to keep going, seeking to save lives and do her best as she faced challenges and situations which were way beyond her ability to handle, including a death threat and serious illnesses.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword
  1. First the End…Then the Beginning
  • And then one day, everything changed
  • An update from the police
  1. Roots
  • Starting out
  • Heading north
  • The family is complete
  1. A Seed is Planted
  • Challenges
  1. Earning my Stripes
  •  I made it!
  1. A Rocky Start
  2. The Diameters of the Pelvis
  3. Friendships
  4. ‘I Get My Directions from God, not Man…’
  5. Mission, Marriage and Me: A Time to Reflect
  6. ‘You Won’t Ever Make it!’
  7. One Door Closes, and Another Opens Wide
  8. Sakeo One Refugee Camp, Thailand, 1979: Baptism of Fire
  9. Bamboo Hospitals in a Bamboo City
  10. Another Happy Coincidence
  11. Back to the Largest Bamboo City in the World
  12. The Boat People: Desperation, Danger and Hope
  13. Night Sisters, Rules, and Restrictions
  14. Heat, Dust, Little Water, and Purple Hands
  • An unfortunate start
  1. Midwifery in Somalia: What Challenge Can Teach Us
  2. Wind, Rain, and Other Acts of Nature
  3. Christmas in a Refugee Camp
  • Teach a Man to Fish…
  1. New Year’s Eve in Nairobi, 1980
  2. More Adventures Await
  3. At the Mercy of the Banks of Africa
  4. Up in the Air, and in God’s Hands
  5. Farewell Somalia, Hello Calcutta
  • Sisters of Mercy
  1. Nepal
  2. New Directions: The World Vision Disaster Response Team
  • Liverpool
  • Going to church can be dangerous
  1. New Culture, New Location, New Challenges
  • Pennell Memorial Hospital, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan.
  • Bannu Beginnings
  • If you don’t ask, you won’t get!
  1. Midwifery on the Front Line: Extraordinary Circumstances and Extraordinary Measures
  • Questionable practice
  • Neonatal Tetanus
  • Prolapsed cords
  • Blood transfusions
  • Internal version breech extractions
  • Exchange transfusions on new-born babies
  • ‘Call the flying squad!’ ‘I AM the flying squad!’
  • The building of a new midwifery unit
  1. Life in Bannu
  2. Interlude: from Bannu to Ethiopia
  • Ethiopia: First impressions
  • Everyday life in the camp
  • Politics in the field
  • Some time away
  • An unexpected proposal
  1. As Kiwi as…
  • On the receiving end of care …
  • You can take the Kiwi farm girl out of New Zealand…
  • Time for self-care
  • A death in the family
  • Goodbye, Bannu!
  1. Back Under African Skies: Kenya, 1988
  • Kapedo Mission Hospital
  • The Kenyan Nursing Council and me
  • On the Sudanese border
  • Left to die: A cultural dilemma
  1. Zambia, via Sweden and England
  • A tough decision to be made
  1. A Fresh Beginning
  • Zambian Nurses’ Council
  • The HIV and AIDS epidemic
  •  ‘A new red dress and new shoes; ready to dance for Jesus.’
  • My interpreter
  • A new addition to the hospital
  • Stepping up to every challenge
  • Resuscitating our smallest patients
  • Premature babies and Kiwi ingenuity
  • Free time in Mpongwe
  • Family, friends and God
  • Back to the classroom
  • Moving on
  1. Tanzania
  • Our work
  • Graduation of our trained HIV/AIDS educators and counsellors
  • The robbery
  • University, here I come!
  • Rwanda
  • Why God, why?
  • Traditional healers
  • ‘Barbara, they want to circumcise you.’
  1. More Challenges to Come
  • Return to Tanzania – HIV Aids Consultant for World Vision
  • Family visit
  • The truck drivers and the prostitutes
  • Expelled from Tanzania
  • The day a letter arrived
  • Somalia, here I come again
  • The day I just wanted to die
  • The closing of one door, the opening of another
  • Brunel University graduation day
  1. Three Weeks to Learn Portuguese: Yeah, Right!
  2. Coming Home
  • I am safe
  • A time of reflection
  • Reacquaintances
  • Re-entry
  • Reflections
  1. A Time for Recognition
  • Fellow of the College of Nurses of Aotearoa New Zealand
  • New Zealand Queen’s Birthday Honours, 2000
  • The Margaret Golding Award
  • Back to my roots
  • Rebirth of the call to ordination
  1. ‘Sister Barbara, You Still Haven’t Learnt Urdu!’
  2. A New Direction



nurse-midwife, aid agency worker, refugee camps, field hospital, Mozambique, Somalia, Ethopia, Pakistan, Tanzania, New Zealand, Anglican priest, chaplain, Zambia, Christian faith, Thailand, HIV/Aids, famine, memoir, autobiography, World Vision, dyslexia


  • B             Biography and True Stories
  • BM          Memoirs
  • BGA        Autobiography: general
  • BGXA     Autobiography: religious and spiritual
  • HRCV9    Personal Christian testimony and popular inspirational works
  • HRC        Christianity
  • HRCV      Christian life and practice
  • JPS          International relations
  • JPSN        International institutions
  • JFFD        Refugees and political asylum
  • JFFB        Housing and homelessness
  • JFFC        Social impact of disasters
  • JFFC1      Famine
  • MQD       Midwifery
  • MQDB     Birthing methods
  • MQCX     Community nursing
  • MQCZ     Nursing management and leadership
  • MQC       Nursing
  • MQCA     Nursing fundamentals and skills
  • 1HFGA    Ethiopia
  • 1HFGS     Somalia
  • 1HFGT    Tanzania
  • 1FMT      Thailand
  • 1MBN      New Zealand
  • 1MBFT    Tasmania
  • 1FKP       Pakistan


  • BIO000000         BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY/ General
  • BIO017000         BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY/ Medical (incl. Patients)
  • BIO022000         BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY/ Women
  • BIO002000         BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY/ Cultural, Ethnic & Regional / General
  • POL041000       POLITICAL SCIENCE/ NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations)
  • REL012170       RELIGION/ Christian Living / Personal Memoirs
  • REL012110       RELIGION/ Christian Living / Social Issues
  • REL045000       RELIGION/ Christian Ministry / Missions
  • REL003000       RELIGION/ Christianity / Anglican
  • REL073000       RELIGION/ Christianity / Baptist
  • SOC066000       SOCIAL SCIENCE/ Refugees
  • MED015000      MEDICAL/ Critical Care
  • MED058000      MEDICAL/ Nursing / General
  • MED058120      MEDICAL/ Nursing / Maternity, Perinatal, Women’s Health
  • MED078000      MEDICAL/ Public Health
  • MED085100      MEDICAL/ Surgery / Eye