The following extact is taken from an interview with Maureen Butterfield who founded Island. The interview was held in 1979;. We share this with you as we commence our 40th year celebrations. Thank you for your support of the first palliative care insititution in Africa.
Early in 1979, word of a Symposium entitled ‘Understanding Dying and Bereavement’ held by the Pathways Institute of Thanatology in Johannesburg reached Mrs. R.A Butterfield, whose interest stemmed from a previous contact with the work of St. Christopher’s Hospice, London, during a personal experience of family bereavement, in 1977.
Subsequent attendance at the very interesting symposium at the University of Witwatersrand on 6th and 7th February, led to a second journey to South Africa in March, 1979, to hear Dr. Cicely saunders herself speak on several occasions on various aspects of terminal pain and the philosophyof terminal care.
There followed a friendly meeting with a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Rhodesia (today the University of Zimbabwe), Mr. John McMaster, to assess the relevance of the subject to everyday life and conditions in this country. At that meeting was born the idea of holding an exploratory symposium in Salisbury (now Harare) to uncover existing needsand the degree of interest here.
That Symposium, entitled ’Care of the Dying and Bereaved’ was held on the 28th May, 1979, in the LLewellin Lecture Theatre, University of Zimbabwe. The response was overwhelming. Over 200 people, lay and professional, of every walk of life, occupation and race packed the hall to overflowing, to hear a panel of speakers under the chairmanship of professor IR Edwards, who is Professor of medicine at the Godfrey Huggins School of Medicine of the local university.
It was his deep interest and concern with the dying patient and his generous support and encouragement that made it possible to gather speakers of the calibre of the Professor of Anaesthetics, Professor A.Duthie, who leads a Pain Clinic at the Medical School; and the Government Consulting Psychiatrist, Dr W.Murdoch. A lecturer in African languages, Mr. J. Kumbirai, gave an informative lecture on the ways of the African people with the dying, and to round off the Symposium, a film of St. Christopher’s Hospice was shown, by kind permission of Dr. Saunders, and through the willing cooperation and attendance of Dr. D.E.M. Brown, Senior Radiotherapist at the Johannesburg General Hospital’s Radiation Therapy Unit, to whose care the film had been entrusted during Dr. Saunders’s visit to South Africa in March. Willing support was also given by the Head of the Department of Psychology, under whose auspices the symposium was held.
The response of the public was measured by a questionnaire issued at the Symposium and showed that deep interest existed side by side with many varied needs for such services as a local hospice, a research unit, training and assistance in counselling and communication, a band of caregivers and availability of information, education and advice for those facing death or bereavement. Not only that, but all of the 70 people who filled in questionnaires (only 100 were provided because the attendance far exceeded expectations) offered their help in the form of time, experience, skills, training and qualifications, as well as in practical ways such as the provision of transport and accommodation.
Some practical action was obviously called for. Therefore Professor I.R.Edwards agreed to chair a smaller follow-up meeting of persons from various professions and with complementary roles in the care of the dying and the bereaved to assess existing facilities and present needs, with a view to initiating whatever further action seemed necessary.
This meeting was held on the 20th July, 1979, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. R.A.Butterfield and was attended by 26 people.
After wide-ranging discussion it was decided that the original Steering Committee of four should be augmented by the addition of four more members. It now consists of:
Professor I.H. Edwards Professor of Medicine, Chairman
Mrs P.J. Edwards Nursing Sister
Mr. J. McMaster Clinical Psychologist, Lecturer at U. R.
Mrs. S. Von Seidel Social Worker
Dr. J.F. Norman General Practitioner
Dr. O. Chidede Paediatrician
Rev. Bryden Black Assistant Rector
Mrs. R.A Butterfield Co-ordinator
The objectives of the committee were defined in broad outline as being two-fold: first, to work toward the creation of a centre, preferably a hospice; second, to conduct an educational programme for interested professionals, for lay workers selected for training in work with the dying and bereaved and for the public at large.
Steps towards the implementation of the second have already been taken. First, a series of workshops is being planned for professional people of the various disciplines involved as well as for carefully chosen and dedicated lay workers so that the best possible care may be provided for the sick and injured and their families in Zimbabwe today.
Secondly, the idea of small, informal group meetings in private homes under the guidance of informed volunteers (such as have proved highly successful for other social organizations here) is under discussion, so that troubled or bereaved families can find advice, information, companionship and support.
Thirdly, it is proposed that the Steering Committee should form itself into an identifiable group called ‘ISLAND’ which could initiate and carry out these and future projects needed in the community and to which people in need would be referred whenever necessary.
Throughout all these activities, close contact has been maintained with the sisters of The Little Company of Mary at St. Anne’s Hospital in Salisbury who are well-known throughout Zimbabwe for their long, skilled and loving service to the people of this country. In general discussion the idea of their close involvement in the movement towards a hospice has been mooted.
If the Order here, with its special tradition of service to the dying and its established hospital in particularly beautiful and tranquil surroundings, could indeed play a basic role in setting up a Hospice Centre for Zimbabwe, it would undoubtedly prove a unique and invaluable foundation for a whole gamut of medical, social, psychological and spiritual services for the peoples of this country, on the national, inter-racial and inter-denominational level which we all hope to attain.