Accompaniment, a tool for transformation

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Accompaniment, a tool for transformation

by Abigail Dawson

Community health care workers at Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) go door-to-door every day. They bathe, feed and provide basic healthcare services for chronically ill and displaced persons across the Johannesburg and Pretoria metros.

Paulina*, a JRS client, came to South Africa from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), fleeing conflict in her hometown, hoping for a more peaceful life. Four years ago, Paulina was diagnosed with breast cancer. Estranged from her family and unable to access chemotherapy due to her documentation status, she relied on community healthcare workers to dress her wound, feed and clean for her. Multiple attempts have been made to get Paulina treatment in a public hospital, to no avail. She has spent the last three months in a hospice receiving pain medication, which seemed to be not working. Paulina died and was laid to rest last Saturday. The healthcare worker who has accompanied Paulina into her death painfully explained that Paulina had asked that JRS be the family at her funeral. They had become her family in a country that was not her own.

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