Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Try to imagine...

Dear Friends,

Imagine caring for an extremely ill patient who has full-blown AIDS and will die within the next few weeks. His wife, two of his children and other immediate family members already have died of AIDS. When he dies, his mother will be left to care for his remaining three children, two of whom are HIV positive. Countless other patients you’ve cared for also have died of this devastating disease within the month.

You live in Soweto, South Africa, where more than 1,300 people die each week, overwhelmingly from HIV/AIDS. The number is so staggering that I have to say it again – more than 1,300 people die each week in this poverty and HIV/AIDS-stricken region of the world.

You are a hospice nurse, or sister as called in South Africa, at The Hospice Association of the Witwatersrand. You rely on your hospice to provide a vehicle and gas so that you can drive to visit your patients. You’ve already been held up at gunpoint once and had a previous vehicle stolen. You are frequently threatened in some neighborhoods. You must be especially careful when transporting medications.

Or you could be a cook who serves warm meals daily to the adult day care patients. You know these patients, all of whom are HIV positive. You know they rely on the food you so lovingly prepare for them. It is often the only hot meal they get that day. It’s not unusual for you to slip a little extra food on the tray when a mother is in the unit visiting her child.

You also may be one of the other workers who keep the Soweto hospice running such as a community care worker (home health aide), social worker or administrator. Even through the dire economic times and violent unrest, somehow you get up, go to work and make sure the community is well taken care of.

Staffers from our hospice, The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, have seen this mission in action during the exchange trips to our sister hospice. And they’ve seen the humanity of those who are overworked and underpaid, caring for a multitude of patients and families including the orphans left behind, because it is the right thing to do.

This year will be my second trip to our sister hospice as part of The Hospice African Exchange trip. I will lead six others on our 8,900-mile journey and two-week stay – an emotional and life-changing experience indeed. I’ve had the privilege of witnessing and learning from the workers, whose caseloads are many and hearts are ablaze. There are so many stories to tell of lessons learned, tears shed and laughter exchanged.

Sadly, our sister hospice is struggling to make ends meet and continue the care that the community so desperately needs. And, so, we are asking you – our fellow hospice communities – to reach out and support our sister hospice. Your dollars will go so far there, helping to pay for numerous medications, food and clothing for their patients and workers’ salaries.

Please consider making a donation on our blog site at www.Care4Soweto.org. On behalf of previous exchange groups, this year’s group and everyone who supports our partnership, we thank you greatly for your support in helping our sister hospice to continue its care mission.


Stacy Orloff

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