“Kimbilio Hspice was born out of compassion” narrates Mr. Joel Sawe, the Managing Director of Living Room International. Living Room International is the umbrella organization under which Kimbilio Hospice operates. The staff at the hospice are more than just employees, but a team of compassionate and caring individuals bringing hope to the people they care for.
Juli, who is the founder of the hospice, stumbled upon two HIV+ orphans both severely malnourished, in dire need of love and care. “These little angels were malnourished, neglected and grosslyunder developed,” Says Sawe.Juli approached the nearest health centre and asked them if they would let her nurse these angels in a corner room of the facility. Through her compassion and love, she did all she could to nourish these children back to health. Unfortunately, after six weeks of care, little Felix went into respiratory distress and sadly passed away.The little girl, Flovia, thrived under the care and is alive and well and in a children’s home, living a happy life. She recently graduated from Kindergarten. From the experience, Juli, a palliative care nurse, decided it was time to start a hospice in this rural place, where she had encountered much suffering of both children and adults.
Kimbilio Hospice is located in Kipkaren, a small rural area about one hour’s drive from Eldoret Town in Western Kenya. The hospice is a lovely serene place, on a small hill overlooking green pastures. At each of the hospice exits, the vision of Living Room can be read: a community of compassion that honours life and offers hope. For the short time I was in Kimbilio, I felt love, compassion and tender care everywhere I looked: in the patients, the staff members, the volunteers and other visitors who were there. The warm welcome extended to my colleague, Dr. Asaph Kinyanjui, and I was beyond description. We were met with singing, dancing, smiles and even the patients, who are referred to as ‘guests’ were carrying flowers to give to us.
As we went around meeting the staff and patients, I was truly touched by the care given to the patients in this hospice. Kimbilio Hospice is barely 2 years old, yet the effects of its good work are heard all over the country. For the guests, it is a ‘home away from home’. For the staff members, the patients are part of their families. Enoch, a four year old child with Noma Disease, also known as Cancrum Oris or Gangreanous Stomatitis has been in the hospice for some time. His family now are the other patients and the staff members. One of the older patients (guest) carries him along and treats him like she would her own child. In fact, I first thought she was his mother. When Enoch came to the hospice, he was very weak, sick, and malnourished due to the disease he has. Noma Disease, common mainly in Africa, leads to destruction of the face, especially the mouth and check. For Enoch, it has also eaten up his nose. “Feeding is a big challenge for him,” says Rachel, the Clinical Director at the hospice. “Treatment for this disease is mainly good nutrition and trying to arrest the infection by giving antibiotics,” adds Rachel. Despite all these devastating symptoms, from the love and care he is receiving in Kimbilio Hospice, Enoch has a smile to offer to everyone.
Joyline is a 13 year old girl who was also found neglected, with uncontrolled and untreated epilepsy. “She was covered with bed sores, malnourished, un-kept and not able to sit up or walk when we first met her,” narrates Mr. Daniel Morogo, the Social Worker at the Hospice. With the loving care and physical therapyat the hospice, Joyline is now able to walk, talk and enjoy life just like a 13 year old should. Enoch and Joyline are just a few of the patients that are admitted in the hospice. Kimbilio Hospice has brought back life into these children’s days, as well as days into their lives.
Kimbilio has a bed capacity of 24 and admits both children and adults with all life threatening /limiting illnesses. HIV/AIDS and Cancer are among the common diseases among the adult patients. With children, they see a large number of severely malnourished children, children with advanced cancers and other life-limiting illnesses, including children with disabilities.
The only other hospice in Kenya with in-patient beds is Thigio Hospice, in Thogoto. Thigio Hospice has a bed capacity of 9, serving all of Nairobi area and its environs. Clearly, there is a great need for more services that can offer in-patient care at times when it is almost impossible to nurse a patient at home and when the care-giver is in great need of respite care.
“Our patients are referred from all over Kenya. We work closely with the hospitals, health centres and dispensaries around here, and we also have an outreach program into the community. Currently we have over 400 patients that we vist in the community. If it were not for our community volunteers, this would be impossible,” says Joel Sawe.
Living Room International also provides services to orphaned and vulnerable Children. They assist, when possible, with the children’s education, clothing and food. As a faith-based NGO, Living Room International depends mostly upon the support of well wishers. They are currently trying to farm as an income generating activity and have also recently opened a funeral home, Kimbilio Funeral Home. The funeral home has a capacity of 15 bodies and is a service for both the hospice and community, as there is no other funeral home close by. This, they hope, will generate some funds for the day to day expenditures.
By Dr. Zipporah Ali