When Ben Wamamili first came to St Barnabas in 2016, he quickly became friends turned family with Graeme Robinson and his wife Jenny. We asked them to tell us about their friendship – they put pen to paper

Dear Doctor Doctor Ben,

Hujambo! How the years have flown by since we met at St Barnabas 6 years ago. We remember your arrival at the 5pm service when we first met you and suggested you join us at 10am. We have enjoyed our time together and friendship over the years since, as we have opened our lives to each other. It seems we have been a bit like Kiwi family for you even as we are nearly 2 generations apart. Your grandparents have featured largely in your life and we have loved hearing of their lives in Kenya. Grandad as an educationalist and your late grandma as a rural farmer with cattle, coffee and chooks!

Your Mum, a nurse in England, has been a mentor for you in your chosen medical career and we hear you are soon to have a visit from her and your three sisters. What joy for you. We have loved your infectious smile and laughter as you have settled here in our country not forgetting your kind handmade art and gifts to mark our special occasions.

Your journey to Christchurch to pursue a research topic for 4 years on Vaping leading to a doctorate has been an amazing study in perseverance through all the fields of study and analysis in NZ and Australia, and publishing reports in international journals whilst wrestling with visas and finance and covid.

Our St B family have shared their friendship with you especially Earl and Erica in gardening, others in odd jobbing, and Frank in trout fishing; along with Supervisor Randy at Uni.

What fun we had travelling to Wanaka. The sheep flock of 1000’s of merinos which blocked the highway for 45 minutes on our homeward journey was pure back country NZ. Frustrating for me as driver, but a joy for you to witness!!

Graeme will always remember our little boys’ enthusiasm at Geraldine as we licked ice creams and spent some pennies in the boiled sweets shop; a couple of lads reliving their diverse childhoods.

Every good wish as you work to complete your medical registration, double Doctor!

Uende salama, Your hugging friends, Jenny and Graeme (Robinson)

Kia ora korua Jenny and Graeme,

I remember our first meeting at St B in September 2016. You recommended the 10am service where we quickly bonded over a rusty Mountain Yak bike that had cost me $40 on Trade Me! After a few Sundays of formal handshakes, Jenny asked politely if it was culturally appropriate for her to give me a hug and we’ve not shaken hands since then!

I have enjoyed our friendship and time together and your family. Your interest and support in my research, including financial support; newspaper cuttings about my topic (my flatmates called you my ‘senior RA’), and coming to Uni to listen to my presentations, including the final defence, was very special to me!

As you correctly note in your letter, my grandparents played a very important role in my early life: they were essentially my parents until I was 15 years old. My grandad is 93 and still lives in rural Kenya but I talk to him regularly on the phone.

My Mum and three sisters are visiting in September, and I am excited for you to meet them! I know you would have been the perfect tour guide to show them around pre-Covid, but your apprentice will be up to the task come Spring! I can picture myself behind the wheel looking at sheep crossing the road somewhere in the high country, as annoying, and my family thinking the sheep are so cute!

I hope we shall be able to meet again in person soon. My bag of hugs is so full!!

Best wishes, Ben (Wamamili)                     

By Ben Wamamili and Graeme & Jenny Robinson