After 50 years working to build a hospital and nursery for a rural village in DR Congo, Maud Kells has said goodbye to Mulita for the last time.
But the brave pensioner, who was shot and almost died in the country just two years ago, didn’t leave empty handed.
For Maud, who has dedicated decades of her life to providing maternity care to Congolese women, was awarded a Medaille Du Merite Civique by the governor in Kunda before leaving for Cookstown for the last time.
“The president of the country had been to our province when I was at home, and presented a number of medals to various people and left one for me because I wasn’t there,” she explained. “Because I wasn’t there to be presented with this medal, called Medaille du Merit, I had to go to Kindu the capital of our province. Only the governor could give it to me.
“I had quite a job to arrange to get down there as it’s about 200 miles away. They only way you can get there without too much discomfort is to try and charter a plane.”
But as well as flying out to take receipt of the medal, she said they also ran into some trouble when cows had decided to graze on the plane’s runway.
“It was quite an eventful day,” she said.
Asked if it was emotional saying goodbye after all these years, she said: “I had to preach in the church the Sunday before, and just at the end of that, I brought it to a quick close because I could feel myself welling up.
“That was the most emotional part, after that I was just so busy I never really had time to think a lot about - this is actually leaving... I’ll not see these people again.”
But her last trip was not without incident, for the plucky pensioner escaped serious injury when a ‘jerry can’ that had held aviation fuel ‘exploded into flames’ in her hand, causing burns which have only just healed.
Aside from that, she said handing over the pharmacy, maternity unit and nursery as well as celebrating her work there “was really quite a joyful occasion”.
“During the week various church leaders had come to say goodbye, and then the night before the medical staff had put on a party for me,” she said.
“Rather than it being a sad and mournful experience, it was really a happy experience.
“That was what I wanted. I didn’t want a morbid, sad time.
“I just thank the Lord that that went so well. They truly all expressed their appreciation of course hoping that I will come back again.
“But I did distribute out my stuff.”
“I left the house I lived in to the church and they said they would probably use it as a guest house hoping I would come back.”
Thanking all those who have helped her through donations and support over the years, Maud also praised the Lord, without whom she said she couldn’t have done it.