Personal Reflection / Rwanda

Alan’s Reflections from Rwanda

06/11/2022 10:00am

At Doctors Worldwide, we work in Rwanda to deliver a community-based palliative care programme, supporting the most vulnerable and destitute patients with terminal conditions. Without this programme, many patients would die horrific, painful and often lonely deaths as a result of abandonment, poverty, and hunger. Many family members also suffer if the patient was the main breadwinner of the family and now can no longer work due to health reasons. Our programme therefore takes a holistic approach to serving these patients, providing not only medical support, but financial, nutritional, and psychosocial support, as well as educational support for the children of patients. 

Rwanda Reflections by Alan Duncan (DWW Project Coordinator)

Like me, many of you will have never had the opportunity to visit Rwanda before (although I’m sure many Arsenal & PSG supporters will likely be getting rather curious about Visit Rwanda). A month ago however, I was given the opportunity to travel over to Rwanda in order to understand more about, and develop some of the current project work Doctors Worldwide is currently undertaking. 

Frankly, what I experienced was beyond anything that I could have imagined. Thanks to a supportive and collaborative project with a local partner for our Palliative Care project, healthcare staff were empowered to go above and beyond their standard role requirements to be there for individuals suffering in dire circumstances. Regardless of the challenges - whether travelling far distances to meet patients regularly, braving bad weather and difficult terrain, or dealing with medication shortages - everyone we met was doing all that they could to create the best possible outcome for those they served. 

Rwanda Reflections Palliative Care Doctors Worldwide

I saw our partners working tirelessly to bring hope & light to people who were suffering with devastating health conditions, as well as meeting people who had received this same support and had ‘come through the other side’. When speaking to them, they showed immense appreciation for the support and concern that had been shown to them, and emphasised how important it was to feel as though somebody cared when dealing with such a devastating health situation, and that they were not alone.  

I, like many, have become familiar with charities or NGOs asking for money to support people in need. However, I had never actually seen the impact of this kind of sustainable work, where investment was focused on people and capacity building, empowering individuals to support those in need through long-term solutions and initiatives. 

What I found truly remarkable and inspiring is how little it actually takes to bring about real and lasting change. Ensuring patients feel dignity in their situation and families feel supported, inevitably creates a shift in emotional and mental resilience. Understanding that they have not been abandoned, that there are healthcare staff trained to ease their pain and support their wellbeing, and that families and caregivers are not alone in this work, provides a sense of confidence and hope for everyone involved. Significantly, it ensures the patient no longer feels as though they are a burden on those that they love, and instead feel reassured in their journey to recovery. For patients who sadly pass away, our team in Rwanda remains by the family’s side to support the members in rebuilding their lives after this tragic event.

In conclusion it is difficult to fully express how important the work is in Rwanda without seeing it for oneself, but through my experience, I have witnessed with my own eyes the incredible impact of even a small amount of financial and holistic support on someone’s life. No one should have to live alone, and in pain, and as a result of the wonderful work undertaken by our local partner in Rwanda, every day the healthcare staff we support are going above and beyond to ensure that this does not happen to the patients we serve. 

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