day 4

What an amazing day!  It was such an extraordinary day that I almost can’t find the words, but I am going to try because I can’t wait to tell all of you about it.

First, today started off earlier than any other day we’ve had.  When I say early, I mean up-before-the-roosters-crow early.  The first item on our agenda was to visit the Grahamstown Hospice inpatient facility.  This unit is called a ward.  We arrived at 7:30 a.m. because that’s when the physician does her rounds.  Prior to this trip, I wasn’t aware that Grahamstown Hospice is not only in a partnership with the local hospital, Settlers Hospital, but is also partnered with a few other organizations that help keep their doors open. 

We visited six adult patients and then I toured the children’s ward.  They had no children being cared for there today, though I must say, this part of the facility was really nicely decorated and also offered some toys for the children to play with.  I should note that the only requirement for any pediatric inpatient stay is that at least one parent or guardian must also be with the child.

Children's Ward

As I look around and watch these dedicated care workers bringing care and compassion to their patients and families, I am reminded about the tremendous impact our employee donations can make on Grahamstown Hospice and their patients. Previously, Haven Hospice raised enough money to pay for a nurse’s salary.  If my memory serves me correctly, a care worker here only makes about 1,300 Rand per month. That’s roughly $130 in U.S. currency. These care workers keep working because they believe in what they do, and with just a small donation, we can support their mission.

After watching Dr. Jamison make her rounds, we were off to visit with all of the Grahamstown Hospice staff, other NGO (non-government officials) and the administrator of Settlers Hospital.  It was truly a great opportunity for us to give a presentation that I believe Haven Hospice would be proud of.  I think we represented all of you extremely well, and we have more passion to raise money for Grahamstown than ever before. 

I want to mention that Verah,  a Grahamstown care worker, invited us into her home for a “spot of tea” or a cup of coffee along with a tasty biscuit.  Verah is a five-year survivor of breast cancer who has such a warm perspective on life and about using time wisely.  Her positive perspective was a reminder to me about being grateful for how blessed I am.  

After giving the presentation, the Haven Ambassadors presented David Barker and the Grahamstown staff with the wonderful digital picture frame that Katie Alphahando and Lori Pagliara came up with.  I want to personally thank each of the ambassadors for participating in the presentation and discussions.    I didn’t ask the other ambassadors how they felt, but it seemed as though they were all very comfortable with getting up in front of that large group and sharing information. Way to go team!  I’m so proud of each of you. 

Finally, we finished up our work for the day and made our way to the Kwandwe Game Reserve for an overnight stay.  If you’ve ever seen any photos or film about the African landscape, think of the most beautiful image you can recall and then multiply it by infinity.  This place is so beautiful that it is hard to believe it is real.  Sure, I’ve been to many beautiful places in my life but I have never been to a place where you can see the whole beauty of the countryside while listening to a variety of exotic wildlife in the background.  As I said at the beginning of this message, the day was truly amazing.  Can’t wait for the tour tomorrow!

Before I sign-off, Vonceil wanted to say a few words about our trip as well.

Vonceil: Greetings to everyone back in the States. It is truly amazing to be on the other side of the world with these beautiful people, and it has been quite an honor to represent Haven. I have felt like royalty. This may be due to having a hairdo that gets a lot of attention, and learning that I must be a descendant of a tribe over here called the Bushman. They were the original peoples in this area, and they are known for their knowledge of medicine/caregiving and having significant gluteal muscles!! They have GOT to be my people!!

I have had an awesome time as an ambassador. It is an incredible experience, and it is incredible to come face-to-face with how wonderfully blessed you are in this human experience. The South African Grahamstown Hospice children, patients and workers have demonstrated such a pure attitude of gratitude. The people that we meet have so little, but yet they are eager to share what they have and they reverently receive the smallest gift. I must admit that so many times in my life I may have wished for something more, something else, some other time, or some other thing. But today, I have become acutely aware of what is “enough.”

Until next time...

ArthurHaven Hospice Chief Information Officer Arthur Clark is one of five Haven Ambassadors chosen to travel to Grahamstown Hospice – our sister hospice organization in South Africa. The experience will provide an opportunity for the Haven Hospice Ambassadors to learn about end-of-life care in South Africa and to bring insights back to Haven Hospice to share with their colleagues. The selected Haven Ambassadors come from a variety of career paths and will bring a wide-range of experiences to the exchange experience: Pam Giebeig, hospice nurse; Tangela Wilson, respiratory therapist; and Vonceil Levine and Katie Alphahando, clinical social workers.