‘The work here is beyond any individual human power’

‘I write on behalf of my family to thank you for the care that you gave tirelessly to our father from the time that he was ill until his death. We really appreciate this and no words can explain how thankful the family is. We also thank our volunteer for the big work he did as well, making sure there was a strong link between the family and the home-based care team.’

Sister Cecily Bourdillon sent us this letter from a family in Kasina, Malawi. The services described did not develop overnight but evolved in response to the needs expressed by local people. Cecily gave us a brief account of how this happened.

‘The MMM connection to Kasina Health Centre began in 2004, when we were invited to renovate and run the health centre. We began with outpatient clinics, a laboratory, and a short-stay inpatient ward for nursing care. A maternity unit, antenatal clinics, a nutrition rehabilitation unit for malnourished children and services for children under five, including immunizations, followed.

‘Alongside these the Outreach and Development Unit worked in the community. Training in Transformation programmes encouraged behavior change to deal with HIV and the frequent and widespread food shortages and malnutrition. The outreach team attended to the sick who were unable to reach the health facility. Village volunteers were trained to assist the outreach team. This was the beginning of the home-based palliative care programme.

‘Some of the most prevalent cancers in Malawi are HIV-related: Kaposi sarcoma of the skin and cervical cancer in women.  On a positive note, a cervical cancer screening clinic set up in 2014 identifies and treats pre-cancerous lesions. Women with early cancer are referred for surgery.
Sadly chemotherapy and radiotherapy are out of reach for most people with cancer in Malawi. Patients with inoperable cancer are referred to the palliative care team. Palliative care (PC) provides pain and symptom relief to people suffering from the effects of HIV, cancer, debilitating conditions such as stroke, and crippling arthritis in the elderly.

‘Under the auspices of Hospice Africa Uganda, in 2015 and 2016 Malawi provided PC Initiators’ Training Courses. Two members of our staff were trained and joined the Kasina PC team.’

‘Be with those who suffer’ (MMM Cons.).
‘The patient referred to in the opening lines suffered from cancer. He had been referred to the Central Hospital and sent for palliative care, there being no available appropriate treatment. The volunteer in his village visited him and reported to the PC team. Thus began our relationship with the patient and his family. Malawi provides morphine for the relief of severe pain. We educated the guardian and family about its use. The volunteer gave the care and support needed between the PC team visits. Communication has been made easier with the arrival in the villages of mobile phones!

‘We are blessed to have friends who, with their prayers, encouragement and donations, work with us in this ministry. They enable us to have transport to the homes of our patients and medicines, blankets, clothing and food to distribute. We are privileged to be living among people who teach us so much about courage and acceptance in times of adversity, and care of the sick using limited resources.’