Wednesday, 13 February 2019
In some parts of India, the lack of information available to families and communities about the disease their loved ones are dying from means that people often react out of fear and ignorance.
It is commonplace to see family members leave their loved ones to die alone, barbers refuse to serve people, and for community members to cross a road to avoid getting too close to someone with a disease in case they “catch” it.
Sadly, those close to the end of their life will often hide away in their home and fail to seek treatment due to the shame attached to their disease and the concern that their illness will affect their children’s marriage prospects.
CHETNA, a community health and development project that serves two hundred villages in a poor, rural state of South Asia, is focusing on educating families about palliative care issues.
As CHETNA meets with village leaders and families to discuss non-communicable diseases, individuals have been strengthened by the hope that Jesus would receive them when they die if they put their faith in Him.
Less than 1% of people in India have access to palliative care which seeks to provide quality of life by relieving the suffering associated with dying.
Death in Ruksana’s family has been a very different experience due to the assistance of CHETNA.
Ruksana’s family was first introduced to CHETNA 16 years ago when her mother was enrolled in one of the first adult literacy groups. Upon completion, she was accepted as a student in one of the first income generation projects run by CHETNA – a sewing class. Her mother died before completing the course and Ruksana was invited to take her place. Ruksana then had the opportunity to complete the literacy program and the sewing class.
When her father found out he was terminally ill, he determined he would arrange her marriage as there would be nobody to take care of her.
At the age of 12, Ruksana was married and shortly after, her father died.
The skills she learned allowed Ruksana to earn a small income to help support herself, her husband and, later, her children. She never took for granted the skills she had been taught, deciding that she would teach other girls what she had learnt.
Ruksana’s journey with CHETNA continued after her uncle was diagnosed with mouth cancer, the most common form of cancer in India.
Ruksana and her husband do what they can to care for her uncle in his sickness, supported by CHETNA staff who give them skills and encouragement in providing end-of-life care for her uncle. Ruksana vows that she will not abandon her aunt as she comes to terms with life as a widow. She is forever grateful for the gift of love given to her by her aunt and uncle, who cared for her after the death of her parents.
CHETNA’s long involvement in lives and communities like Ruksana’s gives them the connection, trust, and compassion needed to enter the grief, loss, and stigma that surround death in the communities they serve.
Photo: Chris Gersch
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