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Palliative care – a new path towards the development of society of Rwanda

The project was realised in Rwanda (East Africa) and Poland. Some of the volunteer’s tasks linked with conducting training sessions, as well as actions promoting the project took place in Rwanda (Gasabo district, Rusororo sector, Kabuga town). The preparation of syllabi, the purchase of materials and tools crucial for the volunteer’s work, and the promotion of the project and the task under the educational initiative were planned and implemented in Poland.  

The growing global incidence of cancer, AIDS, and illnesses not amenable to causal treatment seems to be sufficient reason to establish new palliative care facilities. The best setting for a patient with a terminal illness is to get professional palliative help directly after oncological treatment, as long as such treatment did not lead to recovery, or in a situation where the patient did not quality for causal treatment in the first place. Treatment at the Palliative Medicine Centre gives the patients a chance for a longer life in maximum possible comfort. Comprehensive advice regarding not just pharmacotherapy, but also dietary choices, physiotherapeutic recommendations and psychological support can give the patients the will to live in spite of the illness.  

The project benefitted Kabuga Hospice patients, their family members, Hospice personnel, volunteers working for the patients and the Hospice, health animators, and the local community of the district where the Hospice is located. As part of the educational initiative and actions to promote the project and the idea of volunteering, meetings with the volunteer were organised, a photograph exhibition was staged, and a film documenting the work of the volunteer in Rwanda was publically presented. Informational campaign was also conducted on websites and social media.

Palliative care – a new path towards the development of society of Rwanda

The project “Palliative care – a new path towards the development of society of Rwanda” was put into action from 18 June to 31 December 2014. The volunteer visited Rwanda two times – in September and in November, and spent 42 days there.

The sending organisation was the Science for Development Foundation, which partnered locally with  the Sisters of Angels Congregation (host organisation).

The project’s strategic aim was to raise awareness of palliative care forms and hospice-palliative care provided by people working and volunteering at the Kabuga Hospice, efforts which translated into better service quality at the facility. The volunteer’s many years of professional and volunteer experience were put to use in the part of the project concerned with implementing new palliative care standards, and organising training sessions and an in-home hospice system.   

The above-mentioned project undertakings were supplemented by the promotion of the project and measures carried out as part of the educational initiative. The initiatives comprised meetings with the volunteer who talked about foreign volunteering and social problems in the developing countries; a photography exhibition; an informational folder with a film on DVD; and online publications promoting the project. The bulk of the educational initiative will be directed at residents of the town of Puck and nearby towns, which will help disseminate knowledge in smaller, peripheral facilities.

The project aimed to improve medical services for patients at the Kabuga Hospice, make medical and auxiliary personnel at the Kabuga Hospice more aware of palliative care, improve in-home palliative care conditions for the ill, make the people of Rwanda more sympathetic towards terminally ill patients, and raise the awareness of Poles of volunteerism abroad and the social problems facing the developing countries.

The project partners were the Science for Development Foundation, and the John Paul II Hospice in Kabuga (project beneficiary). The scheme was implemented under the auspices of the Padre Pio Puck Hospice Association, which is also a project partner.

Palliative care – a new path towards the development of society of Rwanda

The project was implemented in accordance with the conditions of expert volunteering. The volunteer went to Rwanda twice – in September and November, and spent 42 days there. The project met the needs of the host organisation. During her stay in Rwanda, the volunteer conducted her sessions as lectures. The Hospice’s medical and auxiliary personnel received extensive knowledge about palliative-hospice care and ancillary equipment. Some of the topics discussed were the necessity of teamwork, adhering to the basic aseptic and antiseptic rules, and the duty to make the ill at the facility more active. In the long term, the training helped the Hospice personnel improve their professional qualifications, and contributed to enhancing service quality.

In the training sessions, the volunteer shared her knowledge of palliative care, but also touched on the topic of individuals who are lonely and abandoned in their illness. The listeners were people associated with the Church, health animators from nearby villages, and patients’ families. In light of the complete absence of in-home hospice care, it had to be determined whether such care was expected at all. Volunteer work opportunities at the stationary Hospice and in in-home care were presented. The meetings resulted in lists of potential patients remaining at home, and declarations of willingness to become permanent volunteers at the Hospice. Field work began right after the list of awaiting patients had been compiled. Calls were made on the ill in the vicinity of the stationary Hospice, as well as further away. During those visits, volunteers were using medical bags with indispensable contents, and were accompanied by nurses. Medical history of patients was gathered, nursing advice was given, crucial medical equipment (colostomy bags) and painkillers were distributed, and medical consultations for patients at the stationary Hospice were arranged. These actions formed a basis of the in-home hospice system. Local community members started to feel responsible for organising support and assistance for the ill. With devotion, they worked with the ill at the stationary Hospice to become home volunteers after acquiring the necessary experience.

The light medical equipment bought during the project’s operation complemented the Hospice’s inventory. It is assumed that the local community’s perception of the terminally ill individuals who require palliative care will shift permanently. As part of the educational initiative, three meetings were held with the volunteer. The meetings gathered around 140 listeners, who were handed informational folders about the project and 400 DVDs with material describing the volunteer’s work in Rwanda.