Care workers deserve our respect

Date: June 25, 2012
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Abigail Mpho Mooketski, a caregiver in Orange Farm, South Africa, would love nothing else than to be professionally trained as a caregiver. But all she’s really asking for is a little respect.

My name is Abigail Mpho Mooketsi and I’m a 29-year-old caregiver who lives in Orange Farm. I work for an organisation called Let Us Grow. Let Us Grow does a lot for the community of Orange Farm: we run a support group for people living with HIV and AIDS; operate a youth-focused, peer-education programme where young people are taught about issues that affect them including HIV and AIDS; and we also run a home-based care programme, which I am a part of.

I managed to get some basic training from the director of Let Us Grow. She trained me about basic home-based care, HIV, and AIDS. Now I am a caregiver and I attend to at least three patients every day.

When I visit them at their homes, I wash and feed them. Sometimes I bring them food parcels and other amenities I get from the programme. It is encouraging to know how important this service is for many of my patients; for some people, the food we bring saves them from starvation.

The saddest part about my work is the days when I find my patients to be seriously ill. Sometimes I refer them to the clinics where they receive antiretroviral (ARV) medication, which help them to recover.

But some people don’t recover. Seeing their condition deteriorate despite being on ARVs depresses me a lot. I have come to care for the patients and they are like family to me.

I also get worried when I see and HIV/AIDS patient getting worse because it makes me wonder about what will happen to me in the end. I have so often found myself thinking about what is going to happen to me when I also get ill and cannot take care of myself.

The other major challenge about doing this work is that it offers no pay, despite the hard work I must put in. This is very difficult for us caregivers.

Our director sometimes helps us with food parcels whenever this is available. We have also started a small project where we make beads and plastic shoes and sell it to generate income for ourselves. We use the little income that we generate from this venture to take care of our families.

However, even if we do not receive payment for this work, I still enjoy it. I am inspired and motivated by the fact that I too have passed through the hands of other care-giving volunteers who helped take care of me when I was sick. They never stopped coming to see me, even if no one was paying them for this. Their encouragement and support makes me feel better.

One of the major challenges about this work is that we do it without formal training. Some caregivers are lucky because they are selected to do the “69 days” training through government. After this, they become better off than us, because they also get some stipends at the end of each month. I would like to participate in the “69 days” training programme so I can be like them.

The fact I have not received training has been a big disadvantage for me. The clinic workers segregate the caregivers who are not trained and do not give us the same respect as the trained caregivers.

This discrimination has posed several problems for me, especially when I have to take one of my patients to the hospital. Some of the nurses ignore us completely. They do not take us seriously because we did not receive training. They think we do not know what we are doing, yet we often do more work than the trained caregivers do.

When we refer patients to the clinic, they ignore them. We are the ones who visit patients door to door, but we do not receive recognition at all. This pains me a lot, because I know I am doing a lot of work.

I would love the opportunity to train as a caregiver. However, more than that, I believe our work would be a lot easier if we were simply treated with more respect.

This article is part of the Gender and Media Southern Africa Network (GEMSA)’s “Making Care Work Count” Campaign, distributed by the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence.


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