A PEMBROKESHIRE nurse has returned home from a two-month visit to Ethiopia, where she helped children living with life-changing deformities.

Catherine Collins, 32, of Freystrop, joined the charity Project Harar for its annual mission to Ethiopia, and spent eight weeks living and working in the African country.

“It was quite a challenge but it was amazing. I got to spend every day of eight weeks with these patients,” said Catherine.

Catherine had joined the charity’s mission in 2015 and 2016, but was only ever able to spend two weeks at a time on the mission.

For the 2018 mission, she said goodbye to her job and colleagues in London and returned home to Pembrokeshire to fundraise in preparation during December last year.

Catherine thanked the residents of Pembrokeshire for helping her raise £2,880 towards her mission, more than double her target of £1,000.

This contribution helped towards the work of the Project Harar team, who were able to given facial reconstruction surgery to 45 people over February and March.

“From day one the patients arrived,” said Catherine.

“Some of them had been travelling for three days to get there.”

Catherine and her fellow nurses, doctors, surgeons and anaesthetists spent two weeks helping the patients build up their strength with good food and rest at a hospital in Addis Ababa.

They then spent two weeks operating on all 45, removing facial deformities which meant many had been ostracised by their families or communities.

For the last month, Project Harar moved to a cottage hospital in the countryside outside of Ethiopia’s capital and allowed all the patients to recover before they left for home.

Learning to communicate with different people from across the country was difficult, said Catherine, as many spoke different dialects or languages.

“Everyone had a story to tell,” she said. “One girl had a growth coming from her ear. She had received quite a few marriage proposals but she had turned them down.

“But by the end, she told us she had a possible suitor she was going to get engaged to when she went home.”

Catherine’s journey home was delayed as Ethiopia went into a state of emergency following the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on February 15.

“I was in a car travelling when I heard the prime minister had resigned. It meant they were left without a prime minister the entire time I was out there.”

Though there were periods of road closures and civil unrest, Catherine and her colleagues were safe for the entire mission.