This week the Chair of our Board of Trustees, Sally Hull, took a trip down to the beautiful village of Cerne Abbas in Dorset to speak to the congregation of St Mary’s Church. St Mary’s has generously supported us for nearly 15 years; support which enables us to be consistent in our support to palliative care projects in Kenya.
Sally shared the story which first inspired her to become involved with Hospice Care Kenya, and the experiences of patients she has met that keep her committed to the cause.
During trips to visit her sister living in Mombasa, as a doctor, Sally used to visit local hospitals. At Mombasa Coast Hospital, she met a young business man called Faustin Mgendi. He was just starting Coast hospice from one little room with a couple of volunteer nurses.
Faustin’s mother had cancer, and he had to make a 12-hour journey with her to Nairobi to get help from the hospice there and receive oral morphine for her pain.
So, this enterprising and energetic man founded a hospice, persuading Coast Hospital to give him a room and allow nurses to be seconded and get palliative care training.
The next time she visited she took books and equipment, and found out they were funded by Hospice Care Kenya, thus starting her relationship with the charity.
Now, as Chair, Sally has been able to see the impact of our work first-hand, going on home visits with the nurses and community health volunteers.
There are no doctors in rural areas of Kenya. Community Health Volunteers are the eyes and ears for the community, and refer people to the nurse led health centres. When people have symptoms suggesting cancer they go to one of the big centres, Nairobi or Kampala, for diagnosis. Sadly, they often come home again unable to afford treatment.
They visited Ann, a widow living in a small hut on a tiny farm 30 miles from Nyeri hospice. She had advanced breast cancer and needed more morphine. The community health volunteers was able to change Ann’s dressings, and received advice from the hospice nurses by mobile phone.
Mobile phones have transformed health care in Kenya. Hospices now have the ability to care for many more patients providing advice remotely to community health volunteers.
We increasingly fund community health volunteer recruitment, training and support to deliver care like this in rural areas. But there is still a need for medicines, particularly morphine, and transport to get to people.
Thank you to St Mary’s Cerne Abbas for your valuable support which is helping support this work and making such a big difference to people’s lives.