Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell

Dr. Faith Mwangi-Powell was the founding Executive Director of the African Palliative Care Association (APCA), a pan-African organization supporting the scale-up of palliative care programs. In this role, she helped develop palliative care in more than 20 African countries over eight years, raising more than 25 million dollars. Previously, she served as a Palliative Care Advocacy Officer for the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund based in London. She was also a Senior Program Officer for Global Advocacy with the Open Society Foundations in New York.

I don’t know if you have watched the film called the Bucket List with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman… their bucket list looks like going to see the Himalayas, walking the Wall of China, Everest. It’s big. It’s out there. And I always wonder, if you go to rural Kenya for example and you find a woman in her grass thatch dying on the ground and you say, you will die soon what is your bucket list? I don’t know how that would look like.  It would look very, very different from what Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman wrote. It would maybe look like: I want my pain controlled, I’m in so much pain. I want my children taken care of. I want to know who will look after my farm, my animals. Their bucket list would be very basic.

Can we offer that, so that people have a chance to dream?  That is what palliative care does. It covers the basics and then it gives you an opportunity to dream.  So that if today you are dying, you are free from pain, your children have a future, your home is taken care of, and you can think perhaps before I die, I can go to Nairobi and see how Nairobi looks like. That’s a dream for someone in the rural areas.

Can we do that? I think we can. I think we can do that, because at the end of the day, whether you are dying in a small hut in Kenya or you are dying in a big mansion in Washington, DC, our basic need is the same: to be loved and to love, and much more to dream.

Can we offer that?  That is what palliative care does.  That is what I would tell people, because sometimes when you talk about definitions, they get in the way of communication. Palliative care is simple, is straightforward. It’s about pain. It’s about suffering and relief of that suffering, because we all should die well.  We all should live well. It’s not about the number of days we have, it’s about the quality in the number of days we have. That’s what we do. That’s what I would tell a group of people who don’t know what palliative care is.