I have been going to people's homes along with staff from Holy Cross Hospice and interviewing the family members of people who have died. As of today, I have completed 21 interviews. Going to people's homes has been a really interesting experience, and has shown me once again how universal the human experience is regardless of geographic location. The people I am interviewing are mostly in the lower income strata of Botswana, and most of them are in the Old Naledi neighborhood. "Naledi" means star in Setswana, and Old Naledi is one of the oldest and poorest neighborhoods in Gaborone. Most people live in one-room houses, often with an entire family living in one room. Some of the houses have electricity, but most do not, and very few have running water. Most of the houses are built from cement and cinder blocks with corrugated tin roofs and no insulation.
|A nicer house - two one-room apartments next to one another|
Most of the interviews I have done have taken place outdoors, since it is winter and sitting in the sun is the best place to be in the chilly mornings. Probably about 8 of the interviews I have done so far were indoors. It is fascinating seeing how different people live - the houses in Old Naledi look very similar from the outside but I have seen a wide variety of interiors, from a tattered foam mattress on a dirty cement floor to a pristine pink room that could belong to an American teenage girl to a bachelor pad with a big TV and little else. Most of the houses have small camping-style gas stoves for cooking, but some people cook over an open fire in their yard.
The majority of my interviews have been in Setswana with the help of a translator, but many people, especially the younger generation, speak English. Doing these interviews has made it really clear to me how much richer information is when you hear it in your own language! It is much easier to connect with the person I'm interviewing and ask follow up questions when the whole interview is in English.
I haven't yet tallied the results of my interviews, but from what I am hearing people are incredibly grateful for the hospice services they received. My questions are aimed at finding out what their experience was like having a loved one who is ill and what (if anything) was helpful about the hospice services received. One answer that I didn't anticipate that I have been getting very frequently is that transportation to and from the hospital or clinic is one of the most needed things, and is greatly appreciated when available. I have yet to encounter a family that owed money for medical-related expenses after the loved one passed away. Although the health care system is under much strain here in Botswana, health care IS free and accessible to all citizens. People recognize the value of this and they do appreciate it, even when they have complaints about the conditions in the hospital or tell stories of misdiagnosis or improper treatment (which happens frequently in the U.S. as well).