Travels with Cairdeas

Dr Mhoira Leng
23rd November 2010

One of my great privileges is to be able to travel, share something of the work we are doing here, meet and learn from colleagues and offer mentorship and support. The Palliative Care Unit at Makerere is doing some ground breaking work and we were delighted to be invited to share in recent conferences and meetings.
Cape Town saw the Primary Palliative Care Research forum; a group which seek to develop research to support 'all people having access to palliative care at all times and for all dimensions in all setting and in all nations'! An inspirational group of people and Drs Jo, Liz and I were delighted to share with colleagues across Africa as well as Canada, Australia, Belgium and Scotland and see something of the beauty of Cape Town.  Can you see our good friend Prof Scott Murray as well as new friends Alan Barnard, Geoff and Ann Mitchell, Bart and Sophia.
We then traveled to the 3rd conference of the Africa Palliative Care Association in Windhoek, Namibia. More than 300 people from 37
countries gathered to share the successes and progress across the region since the last conference in 2007; as well as look at the key challenges and opportunities ahead. The theme was 'Creativity in practice' and our team including our senior nurse, Josephine and we were all able to
present 6 papers and 1 workshop as well as meet up with some of our Degree students. One challenge shared by most countries is morphine consumption and availability as we know only too well here in Uganda. One speaker reminded us that the USA uses 250,000 times more morphine that Ethiopia; we were reminded that pain control and palliative care is a human right; a 'must have' rather than a 'nice to have'.
Back to Work in Uganda now after a whistle stop tour to the UK to meet supporters at our annual Cairdeas Gathering, celebrate our 5th birthday and share planning discussions with Trustees and other colleagues. We are delighted to have been given a grant by the Diana fund to support our research and training here in Mulago and also delighted to have Dr Jo Dunn and Dr Julia Downing (both pictured above) join us. Our team is growing and strengthening. Meanwhile our most pressing day to day challenge remains the lack of oral morphine. We are grateful for the help of Hospice Africa Uganda but we are all struggling to find ways to support our patients in pain until this crisis is resolved and morphine once again is freely available. I will use my next BLOG to tell you some stories and to properly introduce our Christmas appeal for oral morphine but for a preview there is a justgiving site.

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.
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