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Jax Medical Professionals Reach Out On Trip To South Africa

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Haven Hospice
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A group of local ambassadors from Jacksonville's Haven Hospital recently returned from a trip to South Africa as part of an initiative to deepen the relationships between U.S. hospices and those in developing countries.Haven Hospice assists local patients with end-of-life care. In the U.S., patients are typically 70-year-old or older, and their most common diagnosis is cancer.

Ambassadors Vonceil Levine, Pam Giebeig and Katie Alpahando said Africa is a much different story.
In Grahamstown, South Africa, the site of their visit, hospice care revolves around much younger individuals; 23 percent are under 17-years-old.

Their most common diagnoses are AIDS and tuberculosis.

The relationship between Grahamstown and Jacksonville was established through an initiative by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

In 1999, NHPCO requested that hospices in the states make connections to providers in other countries because of the growing need.

"Haven determined they would be a part of the initiative," said Levine. "It's been a wonderful exchange for over 10 years."

Jon Radulovic, vice president of communication for NHPCO, said the program has expanding beyond Sub-Saharan Africa and now operates in 15 nations.

The organization conducts fundraisers, organizes training exercises and supplies donations, but Radulovic said peer support is the biggest help.

"It means so much to people overseas to know there's someone who cares about the challenges they're facing," he said.

Haven Hospice brought toys and t-shirts for the children of Grahamstown, who were incredibly thankful.

"It was like gold to them," said Pam Giebeig.

Levine said going to an underdeveloped or developing country makes people recognize that so many around the world are struggling without any help.

"It inspired me, and made me grateful for what we have in our country.

You can follow WJCT on Twitter @WJCTJax.