DOROTHY KAWIRA is a Palliative Care Nurse and the Mobiliser of Tanzania’s Mara Cluster. In this month’s profile, she tells us why the Mara region needs both her specialist skills and the Cluster’s approach of listening closely to the people they serve. Tell us about your work. I’m a Palliative Care Nurse Specialist in a local hospital. ‘Palliative Care’ means caring for the terminally ill and their families. This is so important where I live: if a patient has a terminal illness, sometimes doctors and nurses here don’t give them and their families all the information they need about their diagnosis, prognosis and treatment options. Sometimes they are scared to. I think this is because doing it well needs time, it needs courage, and it needs knowledge. And they don’t always have these things. But a patient needs to know, because it can give them peace and understanding and acceptance. It can help them make important decisions, and palliative care can reduce patient’s pain. It’s also important for the family, so I do home visits so that when a patient goes back home they can have good support in the final stages of their life. How did you first get involved with the Cluster? I was invited by a colleague to do some palliative care training with a community group in 2014. Whilst there we met some people who asked if we’d like to get involved in a Cluster they were starting. I liked the idea, because I’d seen that people were doing different activities in different communities, but they weren’t connected and didn’t share what they were doing with others. In this group there seemed to be very special people who wanted to support each other and listen to each other. Some shared how they were helping people in really desperate situations – living in poverty with HIV. We heard how they brought them to hospital and counselled them. From mixing with these people, I realised why it's important to connect with and encourage others – I realised it was a way that something could grow anew in a community. How do you personally benefit from being in the Cluster? It makes me really happy to share and hear stories from other organisations, and to visit other team members and connect with different people. For example there’s a disability centre in Musoma that is part of the Cluster, and through the professional training they provide, I’ve seen how people with disabilities can defy people’s expectations and can find work – in tailoring for example – in order to make a living. There is also an organisation that is helping young girls get out of FGM. So the Cluster has helped me see ways to create change and hope. You’re the Cluster Mobiliser as well. What does that involve? I help organise and chair our meetings, and I help to connect and encourage others. We meet on roughly a quarterly basis. We are seventeen organisations with five or six active members. And I help us all to discuss issues, generate ideas, share views, so we can all make progress in our community activities. And then I also get to share my palliative care knowledge sometimes. This has been helpful to Cluster members, because when they find patients that need palliative care they might know what to do, or they can refer them to me. What Cluster achievement are you most proud of over the last year? The training we have had on SALT has helped us so much. As a Cluster, and in our own organisations, we have learnt to listen to people, rather than just talk at them and assume that we know the solutions to all their problems. We now approach communities in a much more different way than we did before. I am very proud of this. What’s the biggest challenge in your Cluster? We all come from different places throughout Mara region, and if we want to meet, or go on a visit or do some training, it needs funding. Most of the organisations in our Cluster do not have funds for this. Some of them hope to get some funds from the Cluster, but after some time they understand that we don’t have those funds. What are your ambitions for the future of the Cluster? Firstly I would like us to be more sustainable, financially speaking. I don’t want us to have to think about money or funds – we just use the little resources that we have to connect and move forward. I want us to connect with other Clusters too, to share ideas and change our communities. And I would like us to make more progress on gender-based violence. It’s still a problem in our region, and I would really like the Mara cluster to fight this so that it no longer affects people. I think that if we connect more then we can change the world. These are my ambitions.
We're very fortunate to have you in our network Dorothy!
Find out how members of the Mara Cluster are working to end sexual violence in this interview.