Liz Willson-Chandler might be the shortest volunteer on the Gift of the Givers search and rescue mission to Indonesia, but she carries a big heart. Picture: Sihle Mlambo

Jakarta - Liz Willson-Chandler might be the shortest volunteer on the Gift of the Givers search and rescue mission to Palu, Indonesia, but she has a big heart and passion for helping others. 

Willson-Chandler, a wound healing specialist and nurse for 30 years, said she was on her fifth mission with the non-profit organisation. She is one of 25 volunteers working with the Gift of the Givers on the mission to the earthquake and tsunami-hit Palu.

Her first mission came six years ago when the organisation went to assist in Syria. For that trip, Willson-Chandler had not expected to be part of the mission and had been helping the organisation pack for essential items in her field of speciality, when Dr Imtiaz Sooliman rang her and invited her to join the mission. 

“There were 85 others who were going and I asked myself, ‘What do they have that I don't’, and said to myself ‘Let's go find out’,” she said. 

Since Syria, missions in the Philippines, Nepal and Kysna and now Palu, followed. She recalls how the organisation treated more than 10 000 people in a week in Syria. 

Video: Sihle Mlambo


“One of the things that makes me keep coming back is that I know I can make a difference. Knowing that I have the skills to have a ripple effect, each one of us can bring this ripple effect. It starts by generating a little bit of hope in the community you are going to go to.

“These are communities that have no life support, no lifeline, they are completely isolated and they think they are going to die of starvation and disease. 

“When we come in there, the first thing we do is change that picture around, we bring that hope back. Without hope, people don't gear themselves into action,” she said.

Willson-Chandler, who runs a private practice in Pretoria and lectures in wound healing at the University of the Free State, said she expected to see lots of patients with bone fracture injuries because of the earthquake.

“I just keep convincing myself that I'm ready, there's nothing you can do to convince yourself you’re ready,” she said.

Willson-Chandler had only two hours to pack before boarding a flight to Indonesia. 

“At the end of the day, I was ready. There are a lot of people who are readier than they think, who can make a big difference,” she said.

“You don't need to be a superhero, every one of us can make a difference,” she said.

Sunday Tribune