DREAM TO HAVE A HOME OF LOVE AND CARE FOR THOSE INFECTED WITH HIV/AIDS
REALISED IN GOD’S TIME
During the last year of my ten years (1990-2000) work in Angola, a war torn country, I was blessed to be introduced by Sister Dorothy, of the Sisters of the Servants of the Holy Spirit, to HIV/AIDS patients at the Government TB Hospital in Luanda. My experience with the patients and their sorry state wounded my heart deeply. The Holy Spirit prompted me to opt to fall in love and care for HIV/AIDS patients.
So my sole aim when I arrived in Botswana was to give my all to the situation of HIV/AIDS in the Diocese of Gaborone. My then, Provincial Patricio and his Council agreed to release me to the said Diocese for this special apostolate. I shall always be very grateful for the support and encouragement I received from my SVD brothers. Bishop Boniface was very happy to welcomed me warmly in his diocese.
I arrived at the Holy Cross Parish in Mogoditshane on 18th January 2003. I aquainted myself to Sr. Angela and her Home-Based Care. I began making regular visits with the Home-Based Care to those infected and affected with HIV/AIDS. I discovered that many patients were neglected by their relatives. The Home-Based made their rounds regularly from Monday to Thursday, every week, feeding, bandaging wounds, bathing and comforting the patients and praying for them. Fridays to Sundays the patients were on their own. Some of the patients were so sick that they could not even stretch out their hand for a glass of water. They were left on their own in their hunger and their mess till Monday. It is really very taxing for the Home-Based to do justice to most of the patients, especially when there are three or four patients helpless. Again I appreciate the Home-Based who walked for distances to care for the sick regularly. Again, there were no toilet facilities and sometimes no water to bathe the patients.
The sick need meals regularly. The food basket helps. But sometimes the whole family feeds on the food basket and finishes the same in a week’s time. Again families are poor to make both ends meet, as the sick need good food, meat and juices. I witnessed a number of sick die because of lack of care, service and lack of nourishing alimentation. The Home-based also help the patients to get their medication. Only when one is closely in touch to the sick, can one really experience the sorry state of the sick and the inhuman way they die. It breaks one’s heart.
I have been facing those challenges by the daily celebration of the Eucharist, and spending time before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, to break myself and give myself to be eaten by the suffering people of HIV/AIDS. I felt that the time was ripe for the Catholic Church in Botswana to act rather than contemplate about the risks involved in caring for the Sick. In my missionary experiences in difficult countries, I always relied on the Providence of God. As our Founder Arnold Janssen said: ''if it is God work it will succeed''.
The Catholic Women Association in Mogoditsane, expressed their desire to give me a helping hand in visiting the sick and caring for them. We brought some sick, about ten of them, to our Parish for Sunday Eucharist, and shared with them a meal and gifted each one of them a Setswana Bible, after the Celebration at our Parish house. The Bible, they treasure as the most precious gift and have uplifted their spirits. We continued to do this for a year or so. The youth of the Parish too began to get interested in the sick and visited the sick.
I would love to share some concrete experience that I had in the year 2003:
(The names mentioned below are not the real names of persons as I wish to protect their identity)
Mary was pronounced as HIV positive. She was in a very critical state. She was unable to walk, unable to feed herself, unable to wash herself, unable to go to the toilet. Her own brother lived next door. He refused to care for her and even angrily in our midst said that Mary was reaping what she has sowed. Mary broke down and wept bitterly. We tried to comfort her, the Home-based cared for her daily, bathing her feeding her and cleaning up the mess in her room. This was done from Monday to Thursday. From Friday to Sunday she was on her own, hungry, thirsty, in her mess and crowded with flies. She grew worse and we transported her to the Government Hospital. She got a bit better. The Hospital authorities could not keep her. She was sent home, she became weaker and weaker and was dehydrated. We were helpless. It was a very, very sad situation. Mary succumbed to her sickness and died. Here I strongly felt a need of a Centre to love, care for the terminally sick so that they can have a dignified death. I remembered Mother Theresa of Calcutta and interceded to her and she sent me a message that we have to do something concretely for the terminally sick in Botswana.
One of the nurses in the local clinic called me to see Joan. She was in a very bad state I went to visit her. She begged me for baptism saying that she would not live long. I asked the local Catechist to prepare her and in a month time we baptized her and gave her the Eucharist. Her condition began to improve. She began to walk on her own. As time went on, she began to get weaker. Her family were tired of caring for her and left her alone crying. Her mother was frustrated and went away to drown her frustration in drinkig alcohol as she could not cope with the situation. Meanwhile we visited her regularly and nourished her with good food. But she became worse and had to be taken to the hospital, only to die there.
Jane was pronounced HIV positive. She was in bed and had no one except her mother to help her. But unfortunately, her mother slipped and broke her hand. She just used some home medicine and continued to take care for Jane. The mother was not able to cope. She did her best with her broken hand. She was unable to clear the mess of Jane. Jane became worse and died.
Dimpho was pronounce HIV positive. She was a young lady of 21, with a child. Here mother and father had taken to drinking and left her on her own hungry and thirsty. We visited her regularly and I remember taking her to hospital myself when the situation grew worse and she became dehydrated. Her Mum refused accompany her and so I had to spend hours with her to get the drip and then return home with her. In order to get some money for milk for her child and food for herself, she satisfied her boyfriend by staying with him and washing his clothes. She grew worse, and died.
John was pronounced HIV positive. He was unable to feed himself. His sister would prepare him porridge and leave it for him and go to work only to return in the evening to see that John had not eaten. He was so weak and died.
All the above experiences prompted me to speak to Bishop Boniface and to propose for a twenty bed Hospice to care lovingly for the sick and the terminally sick. The Bishop was very understanding and compassionate and spoke to His consultors and they agreed for the same in the year 2003. So we were thinking of having a twenty bed Hospice, at Ledumadumane.
Meanwhile in April 2004, Sisters of Nazareth, Sr.Bonolo and Sethunya were like angels sent by God. They were very much interested in this project to care lovingly for the sick and they joined me. As we waited for the project to get off the ground we continued to visit the sick. We fetched the sick from their homes, some of them very weak, some in wheel chairs and gathered them at our hall at Holy Cross Parish once a week to share the Word of God, to exercise, to have health talk and to interact with each other. It was beautiful to see them longing for the day to be together to support one another and also to encourage one another. We concluded with a substantial meal and transported them home.
We used the cars of the mission and some of the lay people of Holy Cross volunteered to help. Two doctors were all the time with our sick namely Dr. Hypsy and Dr. Baron. Any time we called on them they were ready to help. Providence later provided a TOYOTA VAN to help transport our patients. Till today the said Doctors are helping us.
As the number increased, we were forced to have four centers, one at Mogoditshane, one at Tsholamosese, one at Mmopane and one at Metsimothabe. We gathered the sick once a week in all the centers . The Word of God and Bible sharing uplifted the spirit of the sick. Each one of them till today receive a free gift of a Bible which they treasure with love and care and pray with the Bible.We have had about 30% of the sick healed and go back to their homes and do some piece-jobs to earn their daily bread. We also equipped those capable and trained them for sowing and after 6months of training about 15 of them received sowing machines and are able to fend for themselves, others were trained in making wine glasses, others pots, bead work, cooking cakes and others trained in computer. God allowed His work to continue among the sick and we animated the sick of these centres from 2003 till the end of 2008. We handed over the programme to Sr. Angela and the Home-Based Care at the end of 2008 as we had now to focus on the Hospice that God in His own time, seven blessed years of waiting, helped us to realise our dream.
We thank and praise God from the depths of our hearts, for helping us realise our dream for the sick of Botswana. We opened the doors of our ten bed Pabalelong Hospice to the sick on the 1st of March 2010 with the presence of Bishop Boniface and the Parishioners.
The Minister of Health, namely Mr. Seakgosing, officially opened the Hospice on the 1st of May 2010. Bishop Valentine officially blessed the Hospice on this day.
We are grateful to almighty God for helping us celebrate our first anniversary on the 1st of March 2011. So far during this year we admitted about 42 patients, of whom 10 have been called by the Lord, others are well in their homes, others are doing piece-jobs.
We are ever grateful to Bishop Bonifice for his passion for the sick and for giving us all his support and encouragement. We are thankful to Bishop Valentine who continues to give us his whole hearted support spiritually and financially. We are very thankful to the Sisters of Nazareth for taking over the Administration of the Hospice. They are very committed and dedicated to the sick.
We also thank very much Bro. Lutwin of the Divine Word Missionary who took upon himself to find benefactors to support our Hospice. We thank all well wishers all over Botswana who have helped us equip the Hospice and keep supporting us. We thank Choppies for supplying us food regularly to our Hospice on a monthly basis. We also thank our Parishioners and Parishioners of the Diocese of Gaborone for supporting us by their regular visits and bringing along gifts.
We are spending about 1,500,000 pula per year for the running of the Pabalelong Hospice and would be happy to have benefactors to support our passion for the sick and terminally ill. Infact most of our patients are destitute and are unable to pay the minimum. We welcome anyone from any part of Botswana and from abroad. We have had sick from all over Botswana.
Pabalelong Hospic : Pabalelong means a place of Love and Care. This Hospice is the Catholic Church’s Institute of Charity in the Diocese of Gaborone situated at Metsimotlhabe, with admission facility of ten beds. It is committed to the provision of accessible high quality palliative care, love and support to people who are terminally ill, as well as to their families.