From New Zealand to Thailand
By Velma Knight
Posted: 19 October 2013
Many members will remember Jessica Manning, a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar sponsored by Plimmerton Rotary some nine years ago. Jessica, from Baton Rouge, in Louisiana, spent a year attached to the Club and David and Velma Knight were her Counsellors.
Jessica attended Victoria University as a post-graduate student and spent one day a week volunteering at the Malaghan Institute. She was an enthusiastic participant in all things connected to Rotary and was partly responsible for starting a new Rotaract Club in Wellington.
On her return to the States, Jessica studied medicine. Sometime after graduation she moved to Timbuktu near Mali in West Africa with the National Institute of Health to do biomedical research on different types of malaria in children under five. Her experiences there were very different from the life she was used to in the States. She bathed out of a bucket and had one backpack with her for 18 months. Mali used to be animistic – that is worshipping animal spirits, before the country was converted to Islam. It is one of the poorest countries in the world.
Returning to the States, Jessica moved to Boston and began her Internal Medicine residency at Harvard in 2010, working 100 hours each week. She was accepted into the Global Health programme which supported her travel and global health research for three years, mainly in Haiti and Rwanda. At present Jessica is completing her Masters at Harvard.
Two years ago Jessica met her fiancé, Matt, who was also studying at Harvard. He has now completed his Masters in Public Policy and is based in Thailand.
There is both a fairytale beginning and a fairytale ending to this story. Jessica and Matt are being married on 19 October in Baton Rouge, LA – their fairytale beginning, while Velma and David are travelling to their wedding, a fairytale ending for them. They’ll have a wonderful story to tell when they return.
The new Mr and Mrs Mason fly to Thailand on the day following their wedding but they share definite plans to visit New Zealand as soon as possible. Jessica says, ‘I would absolutely love to bring Matt to NZ to meet you (and the Rotary members) and to show him all the wonderful things that NZ has to offer and why my time there was so special. It truly opened a door to the rest of the world for me and I credit most of what I’ve done since then to my time in Wellington.’