In 2008 the Indian state of Kerala integrated a palliative care policy into the local healthcare system in 2008 involving unpaid workers. The model is based on the ground breaking work of Dr Suresh Kumar from 1993.
Dr Kumar explains that the palliative care movement is motivated by bringing hope and compassion, including a hope that when “you are in the same position someone will bring this compassion to you”.
In this video Dr Kumar talks about their work in bringing emotional and spiritual comfort to the patient, but also the way in which the volunteer is affected by listening and experiencing life with the patient:
“Once you start actually talking to the patient, start listening to the patient, you also tend to change. It’s an opportunity to experience life from a different point of view. If you keep your ears and eyes open, this has immense potential to change you. I’ve seen a transformation happening in many people when they go and sit with the patient. They come back and say that they see a different world now.”
At the heart of the Kerala model is a large de-centralised network of some 200 local clinics with a volunteer workforce exceeding 10,000 people many of whom are under the age of 30.
Pic: Dr Suresh Kumar, Ashoka Fellow