Uganda Cancer Trust UK trustees, Liz and Michael Minton, visited Kampala in November 2015. Here is a short report from their trip.
We joined the volunteer team (of 12) for a week in Mulago hospital.
We were able to see first hand the valuable and challenging work they do in supporting cancer patients and their carers. The wards are full with little space between the beds.
Everyone needs a carer so usually a member of the family lives in the hospital with the patient (sleeping under the patient’s bed). The carer can be any member of the family, often female and even on occasion a child.
The volunteers visit the wards every afternoon enabling them to build up supportive relationships. They can also help with practical tasks such as collecting medications, accompanying patients to scans or radiotherapy treatments
As well as support to patients the volunteers work with family members. Our visit also included being part of their weekly morning meeting with the patients and carers in the radiotherapy hostel. One of the palliative care team, Liz Nabirye facilitates a valuable question and answer session in which patients and carers are able to address their concerns. They are joined by Ivan Onapito who is the team coordinator for volunteer and social support.
We undertook a two-day training programme with the volunteers who demonstrated their motivation and readiness to participate. This also provided an opportunity to explore and reflect on the challenges they experience.
Our visits with them to patients on the wards further illustrated the value of having trained and experienced volunteers as part of the palliative care team.
Currently the team are involved in the production of a video which explores cancer awareness, cancer treatments and palliative care for the general public.
Overall this was a rewarding visit for us. The volunteer team is a stable and experienced group who are making a significant contribution to the care and support of patients and their carers. This continues to be a worthwhile project for UCT to support.