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February 2023 – Beautiful and winding yet unending story….

Growing up, I’ve always desired to make a useful impact in society and that thinking shaped what I wanted to do as an adult.  The desire was stronger for any career where I could ensure that the underserved population, are served- fairness and equity. My love and compassion for others grew. My compatriots have noted me for my fairness and equity, to a point that my resolve to ensure fairness and equity made me run into trouble because the world is not always fair and equal. Once I know I am standing in for the less privileged and I am right about the process, I don’t mind. When I got to secondary school, I was required, like any other, student to choose a course. People’s reason for choosing courses and future careers is mostly driven by good-paying jobs, and motivation, among others. As naïve as I was then, I thought there should be courses that lead one to do a particular career only in life’. No one, including my teacher, parents, and my siblings understood me. I kept rejecting almost all the courses and subjects until I am sure how those linked to my career aspirations. It was a moment of confusion and confabulation for me. 

Eventually, I settled on one. After completing secondary school, the decision for my higher education least considered what my interest was, but it was solely based on what courses or programmes my parents could afford. I wanted to still pursue something that I will end up serving people at the highest possible level and reach as many people as possible. I ended up enrolling in nursing training with a high level of hesitation, not because nursing is not a good course, but because I didn’t see the link between my vision and how that could be achieved through nursing, at the time. How naïve I was, here again. I became a clinician and an educator. I noted, later in my life, that regardless of where one works, he or she can always make an impact. 

During my master’s programme at the University of Ghana, I had the opportunity to do an exchange programme at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. That experience changed my career perspectives, till now. I had then decided to be an academic and use my research to impact the lives of people on a large scale- something I had always wanted to do growing up. During my clinical experience, I noted, with great worry how patients with chronic diseases such as cancer, are left mostly on their own due to a lack of health insurance or social policy that cover such care. I decided to enrol for a PhD to help solve this real problem. I applied to the University of Nottingham and got accepted. The support I had from my supervisors were phenomenal, even till now in my post-doctoral career. 

My PhD explored the challenges and support needs of men living with advanced prostate cancer and their family caregiver in Ghana. In the Winter of 2016, I travelled to Ghana for data collection and was back in the summer of 2017. The initial impression I got from interviewing patients and their families were very heart-wrenching. Patients and their families were managing care at home mostly unsupported by health staff. Health staff felt the need to support these patients and go the extra mile using their resources and time to visit the patient at home. Health facilities had no dedicated in-patient clinics or wards for those living with palliative and end-of-life care needs. There and then, I said to myself, something needs to be done. 

By serendipity, John Davies and I cross paths. John had read about some of my published articles and advocacy for palliative care in Ghana. He contacted me and we had a lovely chat. Unlike me, John had retired and has a vast range of experiences perhaps spanning my entire life on earth. But one thing was very clear, we both wanted to reduce inequality to access palliative care and provide opportunities for those who would otherwise not access care. We, therefore, thought about expanding establishing a charity, so, together with others, we founded COMPASS Ghana (Compassionate Palliative Services), and I am very pleased to serve as chief executive. 

The journey of establishing COMPASS Ghana has been a roller coaster one, but one thing remained the same, our tenacity and our commitment to getting it done for the sake of those who need our intervention. It was a teamwork! And I appreciate the role and contribution of all- the leadership team, Trustees, board of directors, and all those supporting us. COMPASS Ghana uses a ‘new’ model of palliative care in partnership with health facilities in Ghana to deliver care. 

  • supporting communities with the resources (broadly defined) they need for care
  • created for, and in partnership with the communities
  • empower families and rekindle the sense of filial piety and reciprocity of care
  • creating palliative care that is culturally and socially acceptable to breathe new life into them using compassionate communities.

The demands of care can result in poor communities in a loss of income, an inability to work, and young children – often girls- withdrawn from school to care, as well as the anguish and anxiety within the home and wider community. Certainly, this is unfair, and there is a need to close the care gap. I am of the view that we all have a duty of care at one point or the other. So, if we put our energies together and work diligently together, we can make a difference. Everyone can get cancer or palliative care needs, but, the sad reality is, it is not everyone that can afford care. That is why your donation is not only timely but very needed now. Please donate to help!

Chief Executive, COMPASS Ghana

Dr Yakubu Salifu