In recognition of her services to the local communities in health sector, Pakistan government has announced Pride of Performance award for Swedish nun Ruth Wenny Lekardal who has spent 37 years away from her homeland in Sweden serving Pakistani slum dwellers.
From 1969 to 2007, she has served Christian and the Muslim communities doing odd jobs in Rawalpindi, Sahiwal and Taxila.
President Arif Alvi will present Wenny the award on Pakistan’s National Day i.e. March 23 in a ceremony at the President House.
While expressing her gratitude to the Pakistan government for selecting her for the award, Wenny Lekardal who has arrived from Sweden to receive the honour told Pakistan Observer she was happy to be recognized by the country that is like second home to her.
I am perhaps the first Sweden national to be nominated for this recognition, said Sister Wenny sitting outdoor in a quiet corner of the Embassy of Sweden.
Raised as nun, since her early life she had decided to devote herself for service to humanity.
“I knew one day I would leave my country and spend life somewhere in distant lands. Then one day, while seeing the world map my eyes were fixed on Pakistan and instantly I realized I am destined to go there,” said she.
It was late 1969 when she arrived in Rawalpindi and joined the community service of a local church.
For seven years, she served families of local sanitary workers in a slum area of Lal Kurti.
“We ran vaccination drive there, helped and trained local health workers and worked among the pregnant women, children and mothers,” recollected she.
Those were the days no one had heard about Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) or polio vaccination, etc. We ran it all by ourselves with support of local health departments, she said.
During her field surveys in the immunization drive, she chanced to visit places as far and remote as Jampur and Swat.
After seven years of service in garrison city of Rawalpindi, she was transferred to Sahiwal where TB patients, pregnant women and malnourished children were waiting for some God-sent help and this they got in Sister Wenny.
In order to learn about the local communities and their problems she even learnt to speak Urdu and then Punjabi.
Interestingly, her love affair with Urdu lasts even today and in Stockholm she is providing Urdu translation service to the Pakistani communities. She is also engaged in a number of translation works.
Her last assignment was Taxila’s Christian Hospital in 1981 where she worked till her retirement in 2007.
When asked how she felt working in Pakistan she said never in her 37 and a half years career she felt any issue regarding security or being among strange people.
During her stay in these cities, she trained several nurses in advanced nursing course and empowered them to live independent life.
Wenny plans to wear Pakistan’s traditional shalwar kameez on March 23 to make the day memorable and meet her friends here.