Island Hospice- Providing hope, comfort and support to the terminally ill in Zimbabwe- Play your part

Story by Jeff Murungweni

Deputy lead- Student Ambassadors News Development and Publicity

In our human lives, two of the most notable events in our lives are the day we are born, and the day we die. What happens in between those two events is all about us living according to our purpose to the greatest extent. When we do look at these two events, the birthday of someone is the most celebrated one. Almost everyone is always smiling and rejoicing the very moment they hear a new-born baby cry. A man would truly feel that he has become a father the very moment he sees his offspring, and it is likewise for a woman, especially a first-time mother. It’s funny how even an old lady who last gave birth to children years back would still feel nostalgic at the feeling of holding a newborn baby again. I’m sure if newborn babies were conscious at that stage, they would wonder why everyone else was celebrating, yet they cry as they get into this ‘new world’. However, on the other end of the scale, there is a very unpopular subject called death, which I’m sure for some of us, the mere mention of that word brings shivers down our spines. For some, their quest has been to try and evade death, yet it was all in vain. The big question here now is: If we can prepare for the coming of a baby months before the baby is even born, can we do the same for someone who is about to die?

This very question is one that Maureen Butterfield thought deeply about, after the passing on of her daughter just before she turned twenty years old, due to cancer. Her daughter had been terminally ill with cervical cancer and yet, as she describes it, they had never thought about the likelihood of death, as common in most of our cultures. It seems as if when we talk about death, we seem to wish it upon someone yet for some, their time to be with the Lord would have come. As for Maureen, her question was on how she could have fully prepared for her daughter’s death. This question brought in two important elements to this journey of preparation: the patient and the people around the patient. With all this in mind, and after thorough consultations, Maureen started Island Hospice to offer palliative care and bereavement services in 1979 in Harare.

This organization is out there to offer healthcare services to the terminally ill, and also assist families to deal with death. For some people, when a doctor tells them that there is nothing that can be done and they are terminally ill, that seems to be the very moment they sigh their last breath of life. Some family members who would be taking care of that patient, as inhumane as it sounds, can just decide to stop providing care. This is a narrative that Island Hospice is trying to change. It is on a drive to show how in some instances if you continue providing the best care to such terminally ill patients, you can extend their life and they would not die earlier. Who wouldn’t want to have a couple of days more with their loved ones? This just shows the importance of the work that organizations such as Island Hospice are doing in our Zimbabwean society. If you look at it, even if your loved one dies, you will be at peace with yourself knowing that you gave your best to make their life enjoyable, even during the terminal illness.

All this great work done by Island Hospice is made possible through funding, which also comes from donations. It is in light of this fact that Island Hospice is partnering with Africa University on a drive for donations to help support its work within Zimbabwe as they offer home-based palliative care. In March (details to follow), they shall have a week to commemorate their work, and also have fundraising activities. Within the Africa University community, there shall be shoe laces being sold for $1 a pair, so that as members of the community we can participate in Takkie week. This will also be matched with a $1 fundraising money one will pay to help support the work. Please note that you will not be limited to the number of shoelace pairs you can buy, as the more you buy, the greater the support. Let us play our part in supporting this great initiative by Island Hospice, which is the very essence of our Ubuntu values. As a parting shot, I am reminded of one of Avicii’s famous songs dubbed The Nights and one of my own life mantras which I got from that song. It says “One day you will leave this world behind, so leave a life you will remember. My father told me when I was just a child, these are the nights that never die.” By the time God calls us from the earth, may we have lived our lives to the greatest!