Counsellor Megan Cruise’s volunteer journey with World Child Cancer continues at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre, Malawi. Last autumn, she spent six months volunteering at Korle Bu Taching Hospital (KBTH) in Ghana providing psycho-social support to young cancer patients, their families and the local staff. Now, on the first of her three months in Malawi, she feels eager to learn more about the beautiful country she has heard so much about.
“Africa feels like home to me - not only because I volunteered in Ghana for half a year, but because I was born in Zambia and have previously visited a number of countries in Southern Africa. I have always wanted to visit Malawi and could not turn down this amazing opportunity to volunteer for World Child Cancer.
“My first impressions of Malawi are very positive, despite its stigma as one of the poorest countries in the world. People in Malawi are very friendly but families here speak very little English. As a result, I have been busy trying to learn Chichewa with the help of the children and nurses on the ward!
“The paediatric oncology ward is simply wonderful. The staff work so hard with what little resources they have, making sure all the children and families are well looked after. The ward is full of life with its colourfully painted walls and the radiant smile of Dr. Chagaluka. Every so often we can hear the singing of preachers who work outside the hospital – it’s magical and moving every time.
“Despite it being a different hospital, patients and country, the challenges faced by many of the children and families are similar to those that occurred in Ghana. Children are often presented late at the hospital meaning they arrive with advanced cancers. There is a lack of access to vital cancer drugs and financial issues are apparent for almost all families.
“The ward can get very busy and children often have to share beds and have long waits for surgery. The patients and their parents would all benefit from a family hostel, like the one in Ghana. With expensive travel costs and many families living so far from the hospital, they have no choice but to stay on the busy ward even between treatment.
“From my time in Malawi, I hope to discover ways in which World Child Cancer might be able to provide more psycho-social support to families in Malawi. For now, I will provide training for the local staff, much like I did in Ghana. Training paediatric nurses in counselling methods is very important as it enables them to support patients and their families as well as support each other and build their resilience for the very demanding work they do.”
World Child Cancer aims to remove the barriers that prevent children from accessing the treatment they need through cost effective and sustainable solutions. By developing twinning partnerships between volunteer healthcare professionals in the developed world and those in developing countries, we can train more healthcare workers to spot the early warning signs of childhood cancer and improve access to treatment. To learn more about Megan Cruise’s experience volunteering in Ghana, read her previous blog posts.
With every donation you make, we can help more children gain a faster, better route to treatment. Just £10 buys a welcome pack of basic supplies for a family new to the paediatric oncology ward in Malawi. You can also help make a difference to the lives of children with cancer around the world by supporting Megan Cruise's fundraising page today.