A LOCHABER couple are heading on a mercy mission to Central Africa to help run a health centre caring for hundreds of extremely sick children and adults.

Peter Hamling and his wife Kathryn will leave Fort William in April to take up voluntary positions assisting in managing the development of the Ndi Moyo Palliative Care Centre in Salima, Malawi.

Kathryn (54), who leads the local Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialist Team, will become the centre’s clinical director and Peter (58) will be operations director, responsible for the day-to-day management of the facility, its strategic development and assisting with fundraising.

The couple, of Farrow Drive, Corpach, have committed to the two-year volunteering positions and will be supported by partner agency, Volunteer Mission Movement (VMM).

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, where HIV and AIDS is endemic and a number of advanced cancers and tuberculosis claim many lives. The average life expectancy in Malawil is just 44 years and the Salima District, where the Ndi Moyo centre is located, has just one hospital to serve its 300,000 population.

There is no resident doctor, limited nursing support and many of the hospital beds have no mattresses.

This week, Mr and Mrs Hamiling revealed they were feeling a mixture of emotions as they prepared for their African posting.

Mr Hamling, who is operations manager at The Underwater Centre in Fort William, told the Lochaber News: “It’s both exciting and frightening at the same time.

However, we are very much looking forward to it – although we still have so much to organise before we leave.

“I guess we are throwing caution to the wind. We’re committed to the two-year project where we’ll be working as volunteers.

“What might happen beyond that, we don’t know. We have six children and elderly parents and, of course, jobs.

“The hospice cares for patients of all ages. When we visited, one of the patients was an 11-year-old boy. It can be heart-breaking but also inspiring because the facility does amazing work.”
The Ndi Moyo Palliative Health Centre in Malawi where Peter and Kathryn Hamling will be based.
The Ndi Moyo Palliative Health Centre in Malawi where Peter and Kathryn Hamling will be based.

Mrs Hamling said: “Following a visit to Malawi in November last year, we felt both moved and inspired to consider our roles – in fact, we felt in the end the choice was not ours, we had to try and make a difference.”

The centre is a converted disused bank extending to only 900 square feet and it currently supports 350 patients.

It was founded by Lucy Kishindo Finch, a UK- trained Malawian nurse, in 2002 and it has been completely refurbished and also includes a herb garden where many of the plants and herbs are cultivated for medicinal use.

Mrs Hamling, who specialises in palliative care, said that Malawi has received much support from the Scottish Government over the years since Jack MacConnell was First Minister – but added that most of this assistance has been in education and obstetric services, albeit both very much needed.

“I would like to help lobby for support of palliative care services from the government as part of their overseas development aid as well as working, once in post, to gain support from the Malawian government,” she said.

Mr and Mrs Hamling have set up a website www.everyclick.com/kathrynandpeter – to allow donations to be made for both Ndi Moyo and its partner support organization, VMM.

The couple were guest speakers at the Rotary Club of Lochaber’s weekly lunchtime meeting last week – Mr Hamiling is also a Lochaber Rotarian – where they delivered a thorough and emotive presentation to members.

Past-president John Goodall, who was well acquainted with Malawi having worked as a medical student there in the early 1960s, gave the vote of thanks.

He described Kathryn’s picture of Malawi as “heart-breaking” and referred to their “amazing commitment and enormous challenge”.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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