The next morning was supposed to consist of a visit to a local Tea Plantation with a relatively brief walk to the Likhubula Waterfalls, which had been agreed with a local guide prior to our arrival. The reality however proved rather different. In the end what could have turned out to be a bit of a disaster resulted in us having a decent hike to a delightful waterfall, which all eventually were glad they did, and a brief visit to see a local Tea Plantation which would not have been worthy of a long visit.
In the afternoon we returned to the hospital to accompany health workers on a home visit to a palliative care patient. Annie who heads up the Palliative Care was not available and so we went with Ethel, who retired a couple of years ago but still helps out from time to time, and Michael to visit a lady patient. The plan was actually to visit two patients but the visit lasted a good couple of hours and so this was our only home visit. Ethel has an infectious larger than life personality that exudes joy and compassion and together with the more reserved Michael they presented a compassionate caring professional approach to patient care that was very powerful. The amount of time that they were prepared to spend with a single patient and with their supporting “guardians” was much more than I expected. There did not seem to be any of the time pressures that dominate us so much in the West.
The remaining part of our trip was spent at the Liwonde National Park where we were able to enjoy both a Jeep Safari and a Boat Safari on the Friday, albeit in very hot conditions (34 degrees). This stay was very successful with great sightings of Elephants and Hippos in particular, as well as rich bird life and a wide range of antelopes.
We had during most evenings spent some time reflecting back on the day and our last evening provided us with a final opportunity to look back on the week. Here is just a snapshot of some of our personal highlights and takeaways:
“We were so impressed by how much is being achieved with so little”.
“The passion and commitment of the health workers and volunteers was so inspiring”.
“The health workers are facing so much need and yet with very limited resources they do not lose heart but show great professionalism and compassion in all that they do”.
“The Sustainable Livelihoods Programme was an unexpected highlight for us and demonstrated the holistic nature of the palliative care work”.
“We were struck by the patient-focused nature of all that they do. One of the nurses on the trip commented about how so much more time they spent on patient care rather than documentation – yet the services they provided still came across as professional and well run”.
“The time they are willing to give to patients was impressive with no sense of appearing to be rushed. Nothing seemed to be too much trouble”.
“It was very encouraging to see the difference that EMMS International had made to the lives of people in Malawi, particularly in the area of Palliative Care.”