Blog: Tastes of heaven; part 1

Dr Mhoira Leng
29th March 2013

One of the fascinating aspects of travel is being able to experience local traditions and cultures. It is humbling to be welcomed into villages and homes and to share our basic humanity as well as all the quirks and nuances that make each one of us unique. I have been introduced by a friend and colleague in India as a 'chameleon' which  think as meant to be compliment to my ability to blend in rather than a comment about wrinkles. I was talking with one of my Ugandan friends, Florence, and we spoke of the amazing differences and cultures and how this can create challenges as well as joys and her reply was 'we had better get used to it as it is a taste of heaven'. Let me share some places and people that have given me a 'taste of heaven'  these past few weeks and months.
Mhoira and Julia

Celebration with Mwazi
Early January saw the culmination of many many years of hard work for faculty and students with the first graduates from the BSc programme in Makerere University and run by Hospice Africa Uganda. Some

unfortunately could not afford the travel but we gathered from Uganda, Tanzania, Cameroon, Malawi and Kenya. MPCU (Makerere Palliative Care Unit) had 3 graduates; Mwazi Batuli, Liz Nabirye and Frida Kolya so extra special celebrations. There was also a Ian Jack Memorial special award to the student who had achieved this despite many personal challenges and this was given to our inspirational friend from Zimbabwe Franciscah Tsikai. This award was given by Prof Barbara Jack in memory of her father. Francis  I still remember your first year when you stood with me in church and wept tears as you gave thanks that God had blessed you with the fees for one year and for all his goodness.
Proud graduates and faculty
Franciscah with her award in Zimbabwe

Participants Lucknow leadership course
4 weeks in India allowed me to sample 4 climates from the foggy mornings and chilly days in Lucknow to the balmy warmth and crazy traffic of Bangalore and the cool of Guwahati. In SGPGI Lucknow we were running workshops in leadership, management, teaching, self awareness and symptom control; Cairdeas was working with Pallium India, Emmanuel Hospitals Association and SGPGI. We had an amazing time with great faculty ( thanks Chitra, Sanjay, Anne, Charu, Angela and Carl) and enthusiastic participation (spot the innovative giraffe) from colleagues across UP state but also including Assam, Mahrashtra, Bihar, Gujarat and Kerala. In all EHA sent participants from 7 hospitals (Prem Sewa in Uttarala, HBM in Lalitpur, Duncan in Raxaul, BCH in Fatehpur, GM Priya in Dapegaon and Baptist CH in Tejpur) and have already started 3 palliative care programmes with one more to follow very soon. meanwhile SGPGI is developing as a centre for palliative care excellence and we were able to work with them to plan ahead. In Bangalore we
Angela 'at home'
Chitra helping Carl and Angela to shop

Charu, Angela and I travel in style

MPCU winning poster
took part in the Indian Association for Palliative Care 20th conference and joined the celebrations of 25 years of palliative care at Kidwai Cancer Institute. MPCU had 5 presentations and sessions and managed to be awarded one of the first prizes for the posters and the oral presentations  Angela Kaiza from Tanzania joined us for the whole trip as part of our collaboration with PCPi (Palliative Care Partnership initiative and Tanga region and was able to lessons from her setting. She took to India like a duck to water - though was very happy to taste an authentic Lucknowi biriyani with plenty meat! Dr Jo Dunn was also able to join us from London and helped deliver an excellent ethics symposium.  Lastly on my tour was the city of Guwahati set on the banks of the Brahmaputra river and capital of the state of Assam. Dr Dinesh Goswami is one of the leaders being supported by the Leadership Development Initiative and it is my privilege to offer mentorship. He organised

Lakshmi puja, Guwahati
only the 2nd (last one 10 years ago) state wide meeting to discuss integration for palliative care and opioid availability as well as a workshop at the local medical college.Anyone who knows Dinesh can vouch for his gracious and dedicated spirit and he amazing work he has done.
Home via the snows of bonnie Scotland but I am realising there are too many 'tastes of heaven' for one blog post. So I will keep the tales of Scotland, Cairdeas developments and recent events in Uganda for a post next month.
Let me finish with a quote from some of our students that encouraged us and encourages all who teach;   'Thank you so much for the support you accorded me throughout the course. It was strengthening at my point of weakness and source of support when I needed it most. Your contribution was so great and words cannot explain it fully. You were great and thank you so much for that!.
This is Holy Week in the Christian calender and a time to remember the incredible hope we have in God. I pray this Easter time you find that sense of hope and meaning and spend time with people and in places to gladden the heart and encourage the soul.