The light of one small candle
“There isn’t enough darkness in the universe to extinguish the light of one small candle.”
This is the motto of the Grahamstown Hospice, a non-profit organization started in 1984 to provide palliative care to people approaching the end of their lives and supportive care for people with incurable illness. The focus of the organisation is on independence, comfort and quality of life for the patient and the direct family.
Mama Nondumiso Xawuka (62) holds a portrait of her grandson Zukhanye (8). Tandtjie township, Grahamstown, Eastern Cape.
As part of the Old Mutual Foundation’s commitment to relieving the distress of the vulnerable, R75 000 was funded to the Hospice in 2014 for the purposes of running ongoing support programmes for children living with HIV, for the grandmothers who care for these children, and for support and skills for the Hospice careworkers. It is good to be here today to see the reality on the ground and learn how vital these services are.
We’re warmly welcomed by Director of the Grahamstown Hospice Trish Gillies, with tea and biscuits in the sunny front room of their offices, and she takes us through the various services provided by the Hospice and outlines the large catchment area they support, which includes Grahamstown, Alicedale, Kleinmonde, Bathurst, Port Alfred, Kenton-on-Sea, Riebeek East and Alexandria.
As with all our project visits, there’s a discussion with Mark and Georgia on how to approach the documentary footage and images for the story. Because of the sensitive work of the Hospice we’ll not do any visits with terminally ill patients, so Trish has arranged for us to visit instead with Mama Nondumiso Xawuka who is supporting her grandson diagnosed as being HIV+ as a result of mother-to-child transmission.
Driving into Tandtjie township, we’re accompanied by Nomathamsanqa Shode, Social Auxilliary Worker for the Hospice (who suggests I call her Noma-T instead when she sees that I’m battling with her full name), and Vuyiswe Ntlumbini, Hospice Careworker in the community. Mama Nondumiso Xawuka (62) has four grandchildren and started receiving support from the Hospice in 2008 when her grandson Zukhanye, now eight years old, was diagnosed as being HIV+ soon after birth. She knew nothing about the virus and didn’t know how to cope. The clinic put her in touch with the Hospice and she now receives regular help through food parcels, medical treatment for Zukhanye and support for both his emotional wellbeing and hers. “There’s somebody helping me, I’m not alone with all these problems.”
Mama Nondumiso (left) with Nomathamsanqa Shode, Social Auxilliary Worker for the Grahamstown Hospice.
Noma-T sits with Mama, asks how’s she’s doing, enquires about Zukhanye’s progress at school and generally is a pillar of warm wisdom and support. She tells me that she loves her counselling work, although she’s keenly aware that she has be careful “not to take my work home with me”. Back at the Hospice, we meet up with Grahamstown Old Mutual advisor, Adrian Kemp who initially approached the Old Mutual Foundation with a request of financial assistance for the Hospice. We chat (over another tray of tea and biscuits) and he speaks of his experience receiving amazing support from the Hospice when he had to travel the journey of losing an elderly parent a few years earlier.
Later in the afternoon after school, young Nkululeko (17) comes through to meet us. Although nowadays the mother-to-child HIV transmission rate has reduced radically due to improved ante-natal clinic services, there are many HIV+ youth like Zukhanye and Nkululeko who receive support from the Hospice to lead a normal life.
Community Careworker, Vuyiswe Ntlumbini at work in her clinic.
Noma-T shows me some of the age-appropriate reading material available to help youth cope with depression, loss of a parent, possible stigmatisation at school and most seriously, thoughts of suicide. I’m sobered by the unseen battles that Nkululeko is facing and am grateful knowing he’s plugged into this strong Hospice system of support.
Interviewing Grahamstown Hospice Director, Trish Gillies (centre) and Community Careworker, Vuyiswe Ntlumbini (left)
And we’re off!
Growing green futures
For the love of reading
Paying it forward
In the heat of the moment
The road to Camdeboo
The light of one small candle
Investing for the future
The building blocks of business
A heart for horses
Mining for talent
My ability is greater than my disability
To be a nurse, you must be love
There’s no such thing as ‘the voiceless’
Mark my words
The place where the sun rises
Welcome to your future