Daycare is usually an occasion for celebrating the little joys and blessings of life. In hospices and palliative care units across Kenya, patients, their families, volunteers, corporate and care givers come together to offer joy and happiness to the terminally ill so that for a few hours, they can forget their worries and problems.
A crucial element of day care is the volunteer. These individuals take time from their daily lives and schedules to offer their services to hospices and patients. They offer services ranging from food preparation to cooking to catering; from cleaning premises to washing dishes; from filling whatever gaps exist between loved ones and professional caregivers.
Volunteers will be there even when friends and family find it hard to do so. Volunteers don’t have the emotional attachment family does. They are trained to meet the needs of patients and families. They visit on a schedule, yet are open to change as dictated by the patient’s health and interests. They are unpaid, yet priceless.
Marion Wangare is one such volunteer who gives her time to Nairobi Hospice. A recent university graduate, she goes to the hospice every Thursday when daycare is on and has found her place in the kitchen. Alongside other hospice kitchen staff, she comes in at 8AM and starts preparing morning tea for the patients, their families and the hospice staff. The next task is for her to prepare bread that will accompany the tea.
“I choose to spend my Thursdays here because I discovered it’s my small way of giving back to society. I may not have much to give in monetary terms but in this small way I can impact people’s lives,” was her response when I asked what her motivation is.
Once breakfast is served at 10AM the rush to prepare lunch then begins. Sliding and dicing of ingredients ranging from onions to tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, and getting other ingredients ready takes over. The process is rather cumbersome but they staff and volunteers make it all look so easy and swift. Like clockwork at 1PM precisely, lunch is ready to be served.
In the afternoon, they divide up duties in such a way that others clean the dishes while others prepare four o’clock tea. By 5PM when daycare ends, it is smiles all round for all the parts in the engine that is daycare have worked in conjunction to offer a good day for the patients and their families.