Roberta’s Visit to Uganda

A Time of Compassion

In February, former CHC staff and current volunteer, Roberta Spencer, visited the team at PCAU. During her time with PCAU, Roberta had busy days working to advance the goals of PCAU across Uganda in many different and exciting ways. Roberta represented CHC during the graduation celebrations of the newest generation of palliative care providers, many of whom were supported with scholarships from CHC. She also received a visit from a student we supported years ago who has recently finished her master’s degree so that she can become a leader in palliative care. During their time together, Roberta learned about her aspirations and dreams for palliative care in Uganda.

Meeting with the SHINE Project

Participating in the Road to Hope Camp

She was able to spend time with children on the Road to Hope (RTH) program by supporting the annual RTH Camp, which had the theme of “Compassionate Communities” this year. In addition, she visited three young adults in their final year of the RTH program who are working hard to become thriving young professionals. Despite her busy schedule, she was still able to spend invaluable reflection time with the PCAU team by leading a special retreat for staff and discussing with them the development of spiritual care in Uganda! The following excerpts are from emails that Roberta sent during her visit.

Roberta’s time with palliative care students

Students are graduating from the Mulago School of Nursing and Midwifery with various degrees in palliative care. Hospice Africa Uganda had a celebration for them, and it was felt that PCAU needed to have a presence at the celebration especially since, through our partnership, CHC sponsors scholarships for some of the students to advance the spread of palliative care. Out of 32 students, there were 15 Master’ of Science in Palliative Care students, 16 Bachelor of Science in Palliative Care students and one Diploma in Palliative Care student. The staff felt I needed to be part of the group to represent our support!

It was a joyful afternoon with many family members and friends present. To my surprise, I was present years back when two of the master-level nurses received their bachelor degrees. They were so excited to see me. They are each doing incredible work and are so committed.

Later on, one palliative care nurse, whose palliative care education was sponsored by CHC, visited me. She was one of the students I saw who had gone on to get her master’s degree. She requested to spend some time with me to personally express her gratitude and how education changed her life. This student is dedicated to palliative care and to returning to her home area in western Uganda to further develop palliative care services for the elderly. As she stated, “There is still much to do in our country for palliative care.”

Roberta’s time at the Road to Hope Camp

Camp began late on Wednesday. As children arrived, they spent time writing thank you letters to their sponsors. They are all so thankful, and they know that they are receiving a life-changing education to help them in the future. Please do not doubt their deep appreciation. As one of them said, “All we can do is say thank you and pray for them and their families!”

Some of our time with the children/young adults was spent in the local community extending compassionate care (our camp theme this year). The pictures are from my group’s visit with an elderly couple who live in one room. The gentleman is sick and can do nothing on his own. The children cleaned the outdoor area and fetched water for the home. We massaged the patient’s legs and arms because he said they get stiff and have little feeling. We talked with them and learned some things about their life together. He said our visit “added years to his life.” How could that not have made a profound impression on us all?

The RTH Camp “officially” came to an end late Thursday. The “cutting of the cake” marks a significant time at camp.  It sometimes may seem “routine” for us to receive a cake, but not for these children. It is really special! We sent everyone off with hugs and good wishes for a new school year. They have given me so many memories to treasure. Before leaving, the students prepared a poster that everyone signed to thank me for my involvement and return visits, as well as one for CHC for their continued support of the program. They are all so loving, caring and thoughtful. They would capture your heart and are so appreciative of their opportunity to go to school. Each one of them has accomplished so much despite immense struggles.

Roberta’s visit to Mary, Gertrude, and Mwesiwga in Hoima

During our visit to Hoima in northern Uganda, three children, or I should say young adults, that we spent extended time with were individuals who completed their vocational schooling and are trying to establish themselves in their professions. Who would have thought this when I met them years ago? I feel like I watched them grow up. The three young adults are friends and care for one another. That, for me, is an incredible result of Road to Hope and how the children get together yearly. To see them interacting like young adults is heartwarming.

Mary is a beautician and has her own shop. Her business is growing slowly. She loves what she is doing. Years back, she told me that her grandmother had told her that her mother wanted to be a beautician but died when Mary was very young. Mary asked me if I felt it was okay for her to become something that her mother wanted and was never able to accomplish. She will be so successful!

Gertrude is a delight. She had talked of becoming a nurse, but during COVID-19 she made the decision to go to vocational school in tailoring and design. She loves it and is good at it. In her schooling, she was often asked to help the other students because of her own developing skills. She is another success story! She and Mary do not work far from each other, so they see each other regularly.

Mwesigwa completed his studies as a mechanic and wanted me to assure everyone he would succeed. He has had a significant stutter most of his life, and he will be going to sign language classes. He is looking forward to it, but everyone admires this young man for his strong efforts to verbally communicate. He always has a smile and a greeting! Yes, he too will succeed.

Mary’s beautician shop

Gertrude’s tailoring shop

Mwesigwa with PCAU’s driver Mohamed Jaffar

How could I not return home and not feel uplifted? I am so blessed to be here and to be part of witnessing such positive results from the Road to Hope Program!