Scotland meets Uganda

Dr Mhoira Leng
20th October 2010

Uganda 2010 was the catch phrase of the Gerard St baptist church team visit in August. Led by our pastor, Mathew Henderson and Sara and Tom Anderson 13 folk fund raised, planned and arrived full of enthusiasm and energy! Many were on their first visit to Africa and all were so keen to get involved and to share with people here. The aim of the visit was to see more of my work here but also to offer a blessing to me and my team, to patients and families, to children at a church holiday week. After a seminar to introduce the topic of 'spiritual care for the sick' along with my Mulago team and friends from church, they visited patients and families in Mulago Hospital and at home. It was not easy to see people who had so few resources and facing such difficulty but as ever there was tears and laughter, encouragement and sorrow and a sense of sharing together. They were warmly welcomed into my local church; Lugogo Baptist and learned to dance African style . They ate local food, sang on the minibuses, shopped in the markets, got sick, got better and all with the same enthusiasm and fun. A real highlight was a day offering support to a local slum community Naguru. The church has a number of links and members from here and we joined in a work party to clean out ditches, sweep with traditional brooms and watch an amazing bridge built. The latter replaced a rickety old bridge that had led to the death of a child
who fell off in a rainy spell. What a privilege! The church prayed that the bridge would also be a bridge between the communities and to God.
The Scots also took part in the children's holiday club with the Compassion kids, had radical haircuts, 

hurtled down the Nile in rafts, discovered they liked matoke, spotted a lioness and spent a memorable couple of days in the beauty of Murchison national park. Most of all I want to thanks them for the way they listened and shared and even cried and prayed with our patients and families. They showed the common humanity we share and the value we give when we take time to listen and to offer care - but most of all to offer ourselves. Thanks you to each one of you; I know you have spoken of the life changing difference this trip has made in your own lives. I look forward to hearing more from you at the Cairdeas Gathering on October 30th in Aberdeen (more details on the website

A ‘Degree for Africa’ reaches further

Dr Mhoira Leng
24th September 2010

Firstly apologies for being so slow at posting once again. We will have a Facebook page soon and it should allow for a faster rate of news! These past few months have sped by as we worked hard to be ready for the next group of students on the BSc Degree. We had a further intake to Year 1 (Diploma) as well as the first Year 2 group (pictured on the left) . All the latter had already completed a Diploma in the past. What an inspirational group of students. They now represent 8 countries across the continent and have stories to tell of the sacrifices they have made to be able to take part on the course.
One student from Zimbabwe shared how she had only received confirmation of her funding in the last week of her teaching month and had come to Uganda as a 'step of faith'.

We have a mentorship programme to support the students and you can see me with my Year 1 Malawi students (Linly, Idah and Alex). Lameck is one of my Year 2 mentees and leads the palliative care association in Malawi and brings many years of experience. This is the first opportunity he has had to undertake a Degree level course and is already a leader for palliative care in his country. Notice the Scottish connection - a present from Highland Hospice on a previous visit. Elizabeth is from Nigeria and is the lead nurse at a major hospital. The faculty is led by the Director of Education at Hospice Africa Uganda, Flavia Bukandana and coordinated by Consilous who you can see here with Frida from my Mulago team and Francesca from Zimbabwe. We have a great team in partnership with Makerere University (especially our Palliative Care Unit) and the African Palliative Care Association. You can see Dr Jo with some of the men (Batholomew, Gideon, Willy and Alex). We also have a link with UK faculty via THET and it was a pleasure to welcome one of my old Scottish colleagues from Glasgow - Dr Mike Basler. He fitted right in!!  We not only learned from each other with the students working hard for a long month but we also sang and danced and even paddled in Lake Victoria. Please remember these students as they are now back in their own countries studying at a distance and sending in their course work.  At a social event in Dr Anne Merriman's home they symbolically lit one candle and gave it to her before each lighting in turn. Light spreading across Africa to bring relief to those in need. Let the flame burn brightly.....
While we were welcoming the students I also had a wonderful team visit from Gerrard Street Baptist church in Aberdeen. This deserves a BLOG post all in its own right so will add very soon.

Monsoon and mentoring

Dr Mhoira Leng
10th July 2010

 After some big challenges regarding permits and weather and illness the team of Grahame and Cheryl Tosh from the UK, Hamilton from Vellore and myself made it to the beautiful and remote state of Aizawl. Over an eventful 10 days we spent time with colleagues from Durtlang Presbyterian Hospital in Aizawl and Serkawn Baptist Hospital in Lunglei. The journey between the two places involves precipitous drops, hairpin bends, near misses, amazing views from tea stalls, stunning early morning mists, some travel sickness and even a beautiful waterfall on the way back. I have even found a mountain called 'leng' - maybe to climb on the next visit. We celebrated my birthday with typical Mizo breakfast and hours of singing! It was very encouraging to see how the principles of palliative care are being incorporated into these excellent hospitals. Dr Sanga at Durtlang has a significant role in caring for young men affected by substance misuse and there is an HIV/AIDS hospice aptly called Grace Home. Dr Lalramzauza, medical director of Serkawn,  attended the Toolkit training last year along with the senior nurse tutor. They have formed a small palliative care team seen here and we had the privilege of meeting some of their patients. One very ill elderly man spoke of the incredible hope and comfort he now knows because of the touch of God in his life. We shared and prayed with him and his wife. Mizoram is a Christian state where church support is central to peoples lives. How is this for good advice in a prayer garden? It says 'Listen to God'.
Mizoram's monsoon kept us a few days longer than planned but I was able to visit Bangalore and take part in the first HIV Palliative Care course at St John's Hospital led by Dr Shoba Nair. It was great to teach with Prof Rajagopal again and to see the great work of Snehadan HIV center led by Father Matthew Perumpil.
Off to Delhi in the 45+ degree heat and on to Lucknow with our team for the first ever Palliative Care Toolkit training in Uttar Pradesh. Jo Dunn from the UK works with Hospice Africa Uganda and was on her first trip to India, Chitra is of course my dear friend and colleague and senior palliative care and psychiatry doctor in India and Nicholas Mellor from the Palliative Care Partnership joined us to see the Toolkit training in action. We worked with our local colleagues Sanjay Diraj and Shakeel Ahmed from SGPGI and Piyush Gupta and his team at Canceraids society. We had an amazing week. The participants were enthusiastic and open and shared so much with us as well as seeming to really gain from the training. They came from 6 institutions and organisations in Lucknow as well as other parts of the state. We were also able to raise awareness in medical institutions in Lucknow, hold a press conference, share with senior colleagues in Lucknow and Agra and meet some patients. The press conference achieved  great media coverage and there are now many patients asking for help that is sadly very scarce in this huge state. As ever the needs are for continued support and mentoring but we wish all our participants every blessing as they seek to put their training into practice. here are a few quotes;  'It was excellent training and definitely it will be helpful to our work' 'I am really thankful to the organising committee for allowing us to be a part of this wonderful experience. I will do my best to practice my knowledge for the patients from today itself'
India of course offers so much to tantalise the body and saturate the senses. We ate wonderful food; Mogul shami kebabs; creamy buffalo butter in buns, melt in the mouth samosa, succulent bamboo shoots from the mountains, crisp dosai for breakfast, sweet sticky jellabies, burning hot parenthe in the back streets of Old Delhi washed down with spicy chai. We experienced something of the ancient culture - not least the most famous monument to love, the Taj Mahal.
Talking of culture; in the famous city of poetry, Lucknow, I had a poem written and recited to me by one of my students - in Hindi!
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