When you think of Africa, and more specifically Zimbabwe, visions of reserves, unique wildlife and the dramatic Victoria Falls probably come to mind. This beautiful landscape is home to over 12.9 million people, but sadly, over 200,000 of them require palliative care.
Historically, the challenge with helping such people has been long-standing cultural beliefs that many Africans have. They believe there are no natural explanations for illness and death and there are no accidents. As such, all incurable illnesses are believed to have a cause – patients and their families believe that some enemy either living or dead must have caused it.
In the late 70s, however, a woman named Maureen Butterfield set out to address this challenge. When her own little girl, Frances, died in severe pain from cancer in 1977, Maureen travelled to St Christopher’s Hospice in London to see if she could prevent this suffering from continuing in Zimbabwe. And then, following the first ‘Care of the Dying and Bereaved’ symposium in Africa to which over 200 people attended, Maureen established the Island Hospice in Harare in 1979.
With Maureen at the helm, the Island Hospice pioneered the development of expert palliative care services, including bereavement services for families of deceased hospice patients and for the general community suffering loss or trauma of any kind.
Today, Island Hospice and Healthcare as it is now known provides quality palliative care services and support to those with life threatening illnesses and the bereaved through comprehensive direct care, capacity development, partnerships, research and advocacy. It is their vision for a Zimbabwe where people access quality palliative and bereavement care to reduce suffering and pain and improve the quality of their lives.
The non-profit organisation is playing a major role in scaling up palliative care in Zimbabwe and has strategically partnered with the Ministry of Health and Childcare among others o ensure this happens. At present Island is in Harare, Chitungwiza, Goromonzi, Zvishavane and Gwanda and Mutoko training all individuals within the continuum of care. Last year Island Hospice supported over 17, 000 clients and patients.
While Maureen has since passed away, her forethought, personal experience and compassion for others has created incredible and long-lasting changes in Africa and her legacy lives on.
So today, we say thank you to everyone at Island Hospice following passionately in Maureen’s footsteps; providing quality palliative care to those living with life-threatening illness because they see the difference it makes to people’s lives.
See you in the pond,
The Fish Chick.
P.S Island Hospice Founder, Maureen, is in the top picture, she is the lady wearing the colourful blouse second from right.