The Forgotten, Lusaka Hospice
Today was an emotionally draining day. We visited Our Lady’s Hospice in Lusaka. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate are one of the main contributors to the hospice. -reads the latest live blog post from our Zambia mission trip as we follow Fr. Jim and Oblate Mission’s associates Dave Garris and Sarah Abbott-
The hospice serves approximately 30 inpatients and 4-5,000 outpatients. Currently, the rate of AIDS/HIV infection in Zambia is over 16%. The hospice provides care for those with HIV/AIDS, TB, cancer, and many other life threatening afflictions. There are occasionally success stories, but unfortunately most stories end tragically.
Sister Josephine Isabella, who is head of the accounts department, gave us a tour of the facility. She also gave the inside story concerning financing of the hospice. It turns out, that since the financial downturn, many charities that previously supported the hospice have pulled funding and reallocated it to preventive care. This has put a real burden on the hospice.
While the government provides ARVs for those afflicted with HIV/AIDS, the hospice must provide all other medications. These medications include treatment for TB, cancer, and other diseases, as well as, testing and lab work, and pain medication. Maintenance and salaries are also huge burdens. Sister Josephine says that people often want to donate to infrastructure projects, but rarely to the cost of day-to-day operations.
The hospice does try to offset some cost. They have a large garden that provides all of the vegetables for the hospice. They also have a few rooms they are able to rent out for meetings and conferences. This helps some, but doesn’t come close to what is needed.
During the tour, we had the opportunity to visit with some of the patients. The were very happy to have visitors. In front of the facility was a makeshift hearse, complete with casket, ready for transport. It was a harsh reminder that most people at the hospice will never recover.
Near the end of the tour we came to a place I wasn’t ready for, the children’s building. I can’t describe the heartbreak I felt, and still feel. Some of the children were so weak they could barely shake hands. I found out later that one young girl is an orphan. She was abandoned, but thanks to the hospice she will not die alone.
To say today was a challenge would be an understatement. Thank the Lord that Our Lady’s Hospice is able to provide some comfort and dignity for those otherwise forgotten people.
** These are blog posts from David Garris Oblate Missions Office of Charitable & Planned Giving documenting his Zambia Mission travelings with Fr. Jim Chambers, OMI and Photographer Sarah Abbot. For more stories about this trip now underway at http://oblategiving.wordpress.com/