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The Human Faces of Hospice

I first arrived at Hospice in July 2011 with my 13 year old son, who was extremely ill with brain tumours.

I remember feeling enveloped by kindness and gentleness as we walked through the ward doors, and a sense of immense relief. At last my son was in the hands of people who were experts in this kind of care, and who would know what to do at every turn in the road ahead. I felt as if we had been given a parachute.

It was only thanks to the skills and availability of the St. Luke’s community nurses that our son could be at home, surrounded by family and friends for the last weeks of his life. We owe Hospice an eternal debt of gratitude for carrying us through what would otherwise have been an unthinkable time in our lives.

Whilst at St. Luke’s, I was struck by the fact that this impeccable care was available to all at that very stressful time in their lives. I realized how rare it is in our society for financial means not to dictate the resources available to a patient and their family- and knew that I would like to volunteer at Hospice.

I did the St. Luke’s volunteer course in 2013, was welcomed by the team at the Conwyn Bay Day Hospice and spent 3 fulfilling and humbling years enjoying ‘arts and crafts’ alongside the patients.
I then became the ‘thank you letter’ volunteer, and have spent the past 3 1/2 years doing my best to adequately thank the many people who so generously support Hospice-  financially, and in a multitude of other ways.
(There is a roster of volunteers who collect medications from Groote Schuur daily for St. Luke’s patients, and I fill in there when needed.)

Rev. Peter Fox, head of spiritual care when my son was a patient at St. Luke’s, also inducted me as a volunteer. I remember him saying that our St. Luke’s badges were to be worn ” with pride and with humility”. I can think of no better summary of the privilege of volunteering at Hospice.

It is with a heavy heart that I am retiring at the end of July after 25 happy years at St Luke’s Hospice.

In 1976 while nursing in Surbiton England, I was invited to a ward-opening at St Christopher’s Hospice. On entering the hospice, it was the calm atmosphere, the crocheted blankets and the chapel that gave me the feeling that I would love to work in a place like that, although I had no idea that Cape Town had a hospice.

My first contact with St Luke’s Hospice was as a volunteer in 1994. On first walking into the ward was the calm atmosphere, the crocheted blankets and the chapel and I knew that this was where I was meant to be.

I was employed full time in 2000. I had a devastating stroke while running in 2001 and was off work for four months. I have subsequently worked 18 years’ post-stroke and have achieved so much in my time at St. Luke’s Hospice.

  • 2002 Short course in Palliative Care.
  • 2006 – 2007 B.Tech degree in Oncology which I passed cum Laude.
  • For the above degree a requirement was to present an improvement to my working environment.  My plan was to alter a store room into a family tranquillity suite – which has now come into full function in the IPU.
  • M.Tech degree with an article published in an international Palliative Care journal.

The above is a reflection of my passion and joy at doing a job that I loved, and was able to achieve while working at St Luke’s Hospice, be it in the IPU or training in the community.

It has been the most humbling experience to enter into the personal space of the dying patient and to be with them in the reverent moment when they draw their last breath.

After 20 years in the IPU, I was afforded the opportunity to achieve my other passion which is the training of carers and to witness their growth in confidence and ability. My motto for the carers has always been – ‘I’m bright, I’m brave, I’m blessed and I’m beautiful’ I encourage everyone to be true to their calling.

My strongest attributes are perseverance and discipline. Few will know that I have two black belts in karate to show for my efforts.

I thank everyone at St Luke’s Hospice for giving me the wonderful opportunity to fulfill my calling for the past 25 years. I could not imagine working anywhere else.  I have made many abiding friendships within the St Luke’s Hospice community.

I plan to remain true to St Luke’s Hospice and I will enjoy becoming a volunteer again.

Grateful thanks and appreciation to all.

Kirsty is our HOD for Outreach Services which consists of Bereavement, Social Work, Spiritual Care and Volunteers.

I am a person who has been on quite a journey of life. I was born in Zimbabwe, grew up in KZN and emigrated with my family to the UK. As well as living in the UK I was fortunate to have lived in the US, Australia and the Netherlands. My health professional background is as an Occupational Therapist which is fairly unusual for a hospice. My first really memorable experience of palliative care was working on a pulmonary (lung) unit where many of my patients were palliative care patients. I just found it such a privilege that they would choose to spend some of their precious time with me as we discussed what was most important to them in this last phase of life. I  had a sense at the time that it was an area I would come back to and after a long stint in neurology and paediatrics I found myself back in South Africa studying Public Health. When the position at St Luke’s came up two and a half years ago I jumped at it. Someone in my family had recently been cared for by St Luke’s and the care made such a difference in him and his immediate family’s life. In South Africa we have a really diverse health care system between private and state; what I find so wonderful about St Luke’s is that every patient irrespective of income or socio-economic background gets the same high quality care which is just amazing. Knowing the difference that St Luke’s made in my family is the motivation I need to get up every day knowing that my role is just one small part in ensuring others have the same great experience that my family did.

When I walked in the doors of Hospice, on the 17th June 1998, I got the feeling of Love and Peace.

I had been asked by a friend of my sister who  worked at that time in the account’s department at St Luke’s Hospice, Kenilworth, to do some capturing of donor records that needed to be updated

I had been helping out for two weeks when Anne, the lady in the Accounts department working with creditors, asked if I was interested in her job -offering to train me, as she was wanting to retire.

I said” Yes, please”, gave in my CV, got the job,and that was 21 years ago.

I had just become permanent when I was asked to do the administrative work (Levy Statements) for Norfolk Place.  I first did that on excel, then put myself on a Pastel course, asking the boss at that time to give me the time off. He offered to pay for the course too, as I was doing it for work purposes. I said “No”, I would pay, as Hospice was giving me the two hours off, twice a week in the morning.

Over the years I  have done just about all the tasks of administration and financial work. Three years ago, when a new financial manager started, she changed my job to financial work only.

I took over the position of Medical Aid Claims administrator, which I truly enjoy. I was happy for the change of position as it was something new, and I was inspired by this as I would be helping Hospice by bringing in an income.

It is a great feeling to give back to Hospice as my heart is in this place, having been here for all these years.

I have had lots of interaction helping out with fundraising events, including the fete, and at the light up of the tree, year after year, with the buying a light forms on that night.

I have had many blessed years at St Luke’s. My belief in life is that if you enjoy your job, then you don’t work a day in your life .

St Luke’s Combined Hospices – Compassion Redefined.

It has been my distinct privilege to serve our Communities for the last 30 months as an employee at SLCH, specifically in the capacity of Spiritual Care Coordinator. This has been a highly rewarding experience where I have learnt so much from listening to patients and families during what could arguably be deemed their most challenging experience. I accompany women and men during the time when they feel most vulnerable, when they express fear, when the uncertainty of tomorrow’s challenges cause much anxiety, anger, frustration and also afford them a chance to pose some of their most searching questions. Simply said, I am a friend who has availed myself to walk alongside patients and families as a loved one faces death.

The stories that are related to me from day to day are inspiring, even though it sometimes harbour a component of suffering, regret, disappointment and anger at God/Allah/YHWH/. The fact that we pride ourselves in supporting patients to a peaceful end, a Good Death, helps me to consider and reconsider my own spirituality and end every day. I have learnt so many lessons from patients through my walk with them and can truly say: The Teacher is in the bed. My experience has been one of learning deep life’s lessons from those who are suffering and facing death. I knock at any door, drink everyone’s tea or coffee, eat all biscuits/cake on offer and laugh or cry with anyone and everyone.

I am in good company as our nurses and social workers, doctors and carers, administrators and cleaners are all Angels, whether they are staff or Volunteers. There is also nothing more affirming than a thank you note from a husband, wife, son or daughter coming back to extend a hug and a smile.

My 35 years’ experience in ministry within the Church and my studies in theology and development has stood me in good stead as I support patients and families under the auspices of SLCH. Along with that, SLCH has trained me well to understand the many facets of palliative care and the training is essential in my attempts to serve our Community effectively and efficiently with compassion, dignity and unwavering commitment

St Luke’s Combined Hospices – Compassion Redefined.

In 1992 at the age of 60 years, I felt the need to get into the community and invest some of my time into the lives of other people who are in need of support, love and encouragement, and that led me to St Luke’s Hospice in Kenilworth, a place my attention was always drawn to as I traveled by train.

I have been volunteering at the Conwyn Bay Day-Care for the last 27 years, and I look forward to being there faithfully every Monday, to interact with a wonderful team of volunteers, by serving our patients with teas and lunches, listening and chatting to them, which they thoroughly appreciate. A programme is planned for every Monday – fun and laughter, playing bingo, doing arts and crafts and also educational talks by social workers and nursing sisters.

I have through the years created many happy memories of our patients and I have learnt valuable lessons from them that in spite of life threatening illness, they teach us that it is possible to “live until you die.”

I have also learnt that you as a volunteer get so much more than what you give, because your labour of love yields fruit daily to your own life, and that is so much more than what money can buy. Amy Walbrugh.

I am the Chief Social Worker at St. Luke’s Combined Hospice. I have been part of the organization for the past 8 years and 9 months. I have 32 year of social work experience in the non-profit sector in a variety of fields of service. I have a particular passion for Palliative Care. Together with the professional team of social workers, we are responsible for the provision of psycho- social care and support to at least 3 000 patients and their family members. We work closely together with other member of the Interdisciplinary Team to ensure that we are providing holistic care. I regard it as an honour to work at St. Luke’s Combined Hospice since we are proving care for those from all walks of life that most need it.   When I am not at work, my hobbies and interests include hiking, dancing, choral singing, church and spending time with friends and family.

I am Chandre Benjamin, I am the Outreach administrator at St Luke’s Combined Hospice and totally enjoy what I do. I started here very recent and what I can definitely say is that I am extremely happy in my job, What I love about the staff whether they are a cleaner or the CEO everyone is so compassionate about working together and helping each other. I told myself St Luke’s Hospice is my retirement job and I’m going to make the most of it working here for the years to come. I come from a medical background working in hospitals admission department, Administrator at a Hand clinic, PA to a dermatologist and what I come from and coming to St Luke’s Hospice is like a happy home I’m coming to on a daily basis, being unhappy in your previous jobs and being happy in your current job is the best feeling ever wanting to be at work every day going forward.

I’m Chandre Williams, the HR Generalist at St Luke’s Combined Hospices. My journey with SLCH began on the 01 October 2016.

I will never forget the day when I came in for an interview, when stepping in to the building I knew this is where I am meant to be.

Working at an NPO as St Luke’s Combined Hospices is truly rewarding.

It is such a privilege to know that in some way I am contributing to our patients care, although I’m not directly involved in nursing or social work, but knowing I am recruiting for the most suitably qualified person to assist patients and families during what is undeniably their most challenging experience.

As family of St Luke’s Combined Hospices, I honour palliative care as the reason for my commitment.

Aline is a Senior Social Worker. She oversees the IPU Ward, Liesbeek and Mutual areas. In addition, she provides supervision to three of eleven Social Workers within the Outreach Department.

“I was born in Great Lakes region (area that is largely affected by various civil wars) Born in Burundi and grew up in Rwanda. Having gone through traumatic experiences myself, I have a great sense of empathy toward people who are experiencing some form of difficulties.

My professional journey started 17 years ago when I joined St Luke’s Combined Hospices as a nursing aid. I worked as a nursing aid for 8 years in HIV/ AIDS field, and during this time I noticed that most emphasis was put on physical needs. Because of this, I studied and obtained a Social Work degree in 2013. This career change has offered me an opportunity to be an advocate, educate and listen to the patients/families.

I am a committed, caring and self-driven person with a great passion for helping people from different backgrounds.

What I love about my work at St Luke’s Combined Hospices is the privilege to create a safe space for the patients/ families during most vulnerable time.

My roles ranges from listening to the patients/families ‘goals and priorities and then linking them to the right resources. My primary concern is always about ensuring continuity of care for the patients as well as for their families. My interventions can take the form of referrals to other service providers depending on the nature or need of the individual client.

I am proud to be working within an Interdisciplinary team that makes a difference to people’s lives irrespective of their ability to pay or not, for the service that my organization provides.”

My journey with St Luke’s started last year (2018), I was in my final year of my studies in Human Resource Management and needed to do 2 months of experiential learning. A family friend put me in contact with the head of the People Services department and I met with her in the same week. I offered to volunteer my services for 6 months in order to gain as much skills, knowledge and experience as possible. On the 25th June 2018 I started as a HR Intern, it was a big adjustment for me as I had not been in an official working environment before.

A few months into my voluntary internship I was offered a paid internship for the following year. I was honored to know that people saw my potential and value I brought to the organisation. The encouragement I received from my team members was truly heartwarming, I took each opportunity to develop myself and to learn the skills and practices of a good HR Practitioner (seeing as I had good mentors to learn from).

I am surrounded by people who motivate, encourage and inspire me, I always strive to bring my ‘A’game to all the tasks I am given. I am truly blessed to have been afforded this opportunity and greatly appreciate every moment I spend here. I have a sense of pride in knowing that I play a small part in the great work that St Luke’s Combined Hospices does.

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