It is now a decade; yes, 10 years of advocating for quality palliative care in Kenya. A journey of a thousand miles that began with a single step has yielded fruits. Patients’ lives have been transformed. Those that nearly gave up are now determined to live.Patients in severe pain now have access to opioids like morphine and are now leading pain free lives. Due to advocacy on integration of legal aspects into palliative care, these patients now understand their rights, they no longer live in fear of what might happen to their family or property in case they die; they will out their property. They also hold discussions with their family members and hence their family members get to understand their diagnosis and respect their wishes. In addition, we now have qualified palliative care health workers that have been deployed in different palliative care units and hospices to take care of these patients; providing them with quality healthcare services and ensuring their emotional, spiritual and physical needs are met. Moreover, these palliative care units have most of the essentials medicines needed. All these achievements have been made possible by the support given to Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) through donors, partners, corporates, friends ofKEHPCA and individuals. They also supported the annual dinner event. However, as KEHPCA we are not stopping, we understand that only 25 counties in Kenya have access to palliative care and therefore we determined to reach out to the remaining 22 counties.
To kick off the occasion, participants got a chance to watch a documentary dabbed ‘Behind the Hidden Smile’ in order to understand some of the adversities patients and their families go through and most importantly get inspired by their triumph stories. You see, these patients are heroes and heroines, even after going through pain they still manage to put on a smile. They do not allow illnesses to define them, they fight and they end up victorious.
During the Dinner, Dr. Emmanuel Luyirika, the Executive Director at Africa Palliative Care Association(APCA) graced the occasion as the Guest of Honor. The theme for this year’s dinner was ‘a conversation that matters’. Dr Luyirika gave a highlight on why palliative care is key. He highlighted the need to have palliative care integration into our heath systems so as to help improve the lives of those living with life threatening illnesses. At KEHPCA, we believe that palliative care matters and talking about it helps in awareness creation. We therefore believe that palliative care is a conversation that matters and we aspire to make it viral. Therefore, on this particular day, Dr. Luyirika expounded more on this.
“What is this conversation that matters? It is about quality of life. Palliative care aims to make that journey better therefore we need to talk about this” said Dr. Emmanuel Luriyika.
Dr. Luyirika also emphasized that Palliative care is ‘about living and dying and the in between – the thorns and roses that follow that transition from full life to full death for you and bereavement for your family and the conversation is about our quality of life as we transit from a fully healthy person to a person afflicted by disease for days, weeks, months, sometimes years of whatever cause, to dying and the way we die and what support is given to us loved ones we you die, when we are dead’.
He also added that “ It is about controlling all symptoms and pain as well as addressing the psychological, social, cultural, legal and spiritual issues that arise because and also during the time of illness’.
The Executive Director at KEHPCA, Dr. Zipporah Ali mentioned that palliative care is not a one man’s business. She said it requires all stakeholders, clinicians, politicians, lawyers but to name a few on board. She attributed the progress made at KEHPCA to the support given by our partners, health workers and care givers that work diligently.
In Kenya KEHPCA raised KES 788,350 (USD 7,599) from the dinner.
In addition, on Thursday, June 15, KEHPCA’s US partner, Hospice & Community Care (HCC), held a fundraiser kickoff event in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Around 50 people showed up for the drop-in breakfast event to eat a meal with coworkers, watch videos of the great work KEHPCA does across Kenya, and purchase raffle tickets.
The raffle, entitled “A Night Out for You…HOPE for Them”, ran in conjunction with KEHPCA’s annual fundraising dinner. The prize was gift cards to a local restaurant and playhouse, as well as a bottle of wine. The raffle drawing was held at 11 am on Friday, June 23, in order to coincide with the start of the dinner event in Kenya.
415 USD were raised for KEHPCA during the raffle. Post-event, KEHPCA’s video, ‘Behind the Hidden Smile’ was made available to all staff and volunteers at HCC to watch. The team working that coordinated the US event included: Esther Jeffers, Becky Hertzog, Fred Heavner, Reagan Hauer and Donna Bucher.
This goes to show we all care, and that, if we all work together, we will realize our vision of ‘quality Palliative Care for all in Kenya’.
Thank you to all of you who made this possible.