Papaya Medicine: Tales from Gilchrist’s Partner Hospice in Tanzania

June 7, 2019, Gilchrist, International Hospice Partnership, Tanzania
partner hospice
From left to right: Eliasifiwe Nnko, program coordinator, Devotha Elibariki, social worker, and Dr. Bartholomew Bakari, clinician

Last month, Gilchrist had the honor of hosting three colleagues from our partner hospice — Nkoaranga Lutheran Hospital’s Palliative Care Program in Arusha, Tanzania—for an educational exchange.

Our Tanzanian friends braved over 24 hours of travel time to visit us, and we kept them very busy! They shadowed our staff so they could learn how we enroll hospice patients and care for them and their families. We shared information about our bereavement services, pediatric hospice, volunteer program, and integrative medicine. We also brought them to the GBMC simulation lab so they could observe training for nurses and aides.

Despite their jet lag, our guests managed to give two presentations for Gilchrist and GBMC staff and volunteers about the work they do in Tanzania, titled “Tales from Tanzania: Compassionate Caregiving in a Developing Nation.”

We learned just as much from them as they did from us. We learned that they have six staff members to provide care for over 1,000 patients.

That they work from sun up to sundown, often traveling more than an hour, together in one vehicle, over unpaved, mountainous roads to see patients.

That their patients lack food, clean water and funds to obtain medical care and schooling for their children.

That many children are placed in orphanages because their parents died from HIV/AIDS.

And we learned that they often lack medication to treat their patients.

They taught us about papaya medicine—when you don’t have medications to treat a wound, you can chop an unripe papaya out of a tree, scrape it, and make a poultice that effectively debrides the wound and promotes healing.

Our partners in Tanzania experience challenges that we will never know—we can easily call suppliers to deliver medications or durable medical equipment within a few hours.

What other lessons did we learn from our partner hospice? A greater awareness of what developing countries cope with. That compassion and caring despite the odds is meaningful. And gratitude for all we have.

To learn more about Gilchrist’s partnership with Tanzania, visit

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