Blog: Soul’s worth

Dr Mhoira Leng
19th December 2014

Christmas is full of tradition; food, magical memories of Christmas past, food, parties, presents, more food, singing, joy, laughter and even more food. This is true here on the equator even though there has never been a 'bleak mid-winter' and the sun shines daily. I have my angels on the banana fibre tree, sung carols and eaten mince pies. Listening to an advent podcast I was struck by a meditation on the words of a well known and loved Christmas carol;
O holy night the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of the dear Saviour's birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
What a wonderful picture; soul worth....a sense of value and validation and affirmation and grace in a world where there is so much pain and sorrow and conflict and grief. Again we are in a time where around the world there are disasters and conflict; many still dying of ebola, children killed in a school in Pakistan and the grinding reality of homelessness, poverty and loss.
Volunteers. MPCU and hostel party
A ward round in Mulago also shows the gamut of human emotions. We have just finished the examinations for our undergraduates and postgraduates in Makerere; nerves, hard work and the pleasure of seeing young colleagues grow and learn as well as the camaraderie of my examiner colleagues. We climb the hill to visit Betty who has been in hospital for many months but so wants to get home to see her young children this Christmas. She should finally get home tomorrow. Then there is Aloysius who needs treatment but how do we get him across the hospital site when he is so sore with the slightest
Enjoying our love feast Acholi food
movement and there is no ambulance available. Thanks to our volunteers who work tirelessly to help. Charles cant move his legs any more but has a caring family who need to learn how to nurse him and give his painkillers as they take it in turns to sleep under his bed. Little Kamau is full of smiles when we have our Christmas party even though he is getting his treatment for cancer daily. Women from across the region who are all having cancer treatment  joining Kamau and our MPCU team singing, dancing and of course eating food. My Lugogo church family share a love-feast with guest appearance from gospel music star Joyce Babiyre and of course sharing food (I love malakwang and sweet potato from our Acholi friends).
Sophie and Rachel in Kerala
Press in Guwahati
I am spending the next few weeks in Kampala and appreciating a new home (moved across the compound) and freedom from airports for a few weeks. I am reflecting on an amazing year. The past 2 months I have been in 7 different cites in India meeting old friends and colleagues and seeing how much they have achieved; huge congratulations Chitra Venkateswaran and the Mehac team, MR
Rajagopal and the Pallium India team and Dr Gayatri Palat and the MNJ team. Thanks too to Rachel and Sophie on their medical electives from Edinburgh who wanted to learn about palliative care
Moolchand parantha
BCH team Tezpur
in India and took time to float on the backwater with Auntie Mhoira. I was then joined by Dr Gursaran Purewal and Grace Kivumbi (MPCU), Dr Dan Munday (INF Nepal) and Dr Dinesh Goswami (GPPCS) and we travelled to Tezpur in Assam to evaluate the palliative care
programme in Baptist Christian Hospital. Inspiring and encouraging. Thanks Dr Jerine and your team and to the leadership and vision of Dr George Koshy and Dr Ann Thyle. Back to Delhi for a busy research workshop - you cant do better than a colleague saying it was 'perfect'. My favourite part was doing some practical research on the famous Moolchand parantha - mixed views on the hygiene but resounding positives from all who took the taste test.
What is at the heart of all we are doing in palliative care? What is at the heart of what we celebrate at Christmas? What is on our hearts? We search for meaning and purpose. We need to feel we have a role, that we belong, that we have significance, that we are loved. We want to say with our actions and our words you deserve our professionalism, our service, our friendship, our love because you have value and worth. When
Kamau's party time
our volunteers spend hours trying to get a patient the care they need working with the ward staff and families they are saying 'you are valuable and loved'. When our nurses share a quiet moment with a family as they realise this might be the last time Christmas is shared we are saying 'your life has meaning and you will be missed' When our doctors go the extra mile for someone who is in need and suffering we say 'you are made in the image of God; of infinite worth'. When we see and build the skills of our colleagues to enable them to offer values based care and model this in our team we say 'you can change the world one step at a time' When we see each member of our team as different, unique and valued we say ' together we can make a difference' We are also so conscious of the care and love from many across the globe for our work in Cairdeas as well as the wider work of palliative care. Our Christmas appeal this year focuses on building capacity through scholarships for Dr Jack Turyahikayo and Ivan Onapito. Please click on this link if you can support or link it to your friends.
Kerala beach
What gives your soul its worth? Perhaps you will be spending time with special 'people sharing, remembering and making new memories. Perhaps you will have moments of wonder; a snowflake, a
Sunset on the Zambezi
sunset, a smiling child, candles glowing glowing in the dark; child's voice singing 'Away in a manger'. I know I can get to this time of year and feel pretty weary; when the day to day frustrations combined with the pressure and busyness of life and cumulative burdens can seem overwhelming. I am so often aware of how often we fail to live up to our expectations and ideals and even just to keep up with the busy agenda. Yet this is a time of grace and renewal and hope. A time of hope and rejoicing because the Saviour has come and our souls have felt their worth...May you have a wonderful Christmas and full of hope for all 2015 will bring.
O holy night the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of the dear Saviour's birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining till he appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.