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Hospice Without Borders was founded in 2010 after we first visited Rwanda and came to understand the value of palliative care and hospice practice as a potent vehicle for peace building amongst populations that have been traumatized, such as the entire republic of Rwanda, who in the 1994 genocide lost nearly 1 million of its citizens (predominantly Tutsi but also moderate Hutu).   


We have tried our best over the years to insure access to home based hospice and palliative care for the people of Rwanda, as well as the homeless population in our home town of Olympia Washington (who are also marginalized and suffer traumatic loss daily).  We have worked to teach palliative care in the republic of Burundi, an extremely poor country that lies just south of Rwanda.  We have also worked with the Native American Population here in the USA who have been exposed to chronic loss, marginalization, as well as episodes of genocide, and ethnocide over the centuries.


In addition we have begun to offer contemplative care retreats we call Present To Dying, in order to share with as many as possible, the gifts of bearing witness to both the joys and sorrows of life.   In Present to Dying we are training a corps of compassionate companions that hope view themselves as resources to both themselves and their community.  


We say 'Amahoro itangira mu mutima wowe' ~ Peace begins in the human heart!  And what we're trying to do is cultivate peace at the grass roots, in each individual heart, by creating support at the bedsides of people living with chronic and terminal illness.  Helping patients and their caregivers realize the truth that "we're all in the same boat," meaning all of us at some point will die,  opens our hearts to the suffering of the world, as the poet Mary Oliver so poignantly wrote in her poem "Lead."


In recognition of the truth that we are all connected, we see time and time again this insight naturally gives rise to simple compassion: compassion for our own suffering and for those who cross our path, whether they be family, friends, or even so-called enemies.


In caring for the sick and dying we once again come to see the sacred in one another.  At Hospice Without Borders we call this a recognition of 'Sacred Reciprocity'.  It's the 'realization of oneness' that so many patients, family members, and volunteers working with us experience.   In Rwanda the word that best expresses this principle is Ubumuntu. 


We believe structured support, mentoring, and our simple yet profound presence in the face of dying,  has the potential to change lives far beyond the bedside, even the capacity to influence the conversations on the hillsides and along the paths of Rwanda, as well as the streets of our own communities.  As Margaret Wheatley said, "Most social change begins with a single conversation."  We want the conversation to be not about sewing seeds of division and dehumanization, but rather about about cultivating the shoots of compassion and love.  


That is the real work of Hospice Without Borders!  Helping us to come back again and again, and realize that everything and everyone is connected!   


 David Slack, MD