While some people continuously abuse the elderly with accusations of witchcraft and plotting their deaths, one woman has decided to be different. She wants to protect the elderly by providing them with shelter and food. Loveness Imaan is that compassionate soul currently constructing a shelter for homeless and old people. BRENDA TWEA spoke to her.
The passion of the nurse is to do no harm; to ease the pain of a person, to listen, to advocate and more importantly, to make a difference to the patient’s condition. All these attributes suit Loveness Imaan, a qualified nurse and a social work lecturer at Chiradzulu-based Catholic University.
Nurses are known for treating their work as a calling. It may be rooted to some early experience with a nurse; it could emerge from a desire to support a family or it might just come from an unceasing call to care for others, such as Imaan’s case for instance.
“I pursued nursing because I like caring for people. I just do not like to see people suffering. I primarily wanted to be a doctor, but when I couldn’t make it, I opted for nursing,” she says.
Born on July 6 1975 and married to one of the country’s renowned marketers, Elias Imaan, Loveness was trained as a nurse between 1997 and 2000 at Nkhoma College of Nursing from where she got a certificate as a nurse and midwifery technician.
She later travelled to England where for eight years, she was in elderly care jobs as she pursued her education and her passion for elderly care grew.
With a nursing certificate in her pocket, she was exempted and joined Coventry University at year two for her degree course. She went on to attain a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in health sciences in 2009. In 2012, she graduated with a Master of Science in health sciences from the same institution.
She got back home from England in 2013 and heard about all the terrible things happening to the elderly.
She says she was deeply hurt realising that everyone, including herself, will age someday and would not want to be treated badly. And she decided to act.
The snapping point was her constant interaction with an old woman in her 70s who lived with her mother close to the nurse’s house at Kameza Township.
Imaan discovered that the two elderly women had no source of income, apart from a small kachasu (locally distilled alcoholic drink) brewing business they ran. Their biggest setback was the non-payment of bills by patrons.
Their interaction started with the 70-year-old asking for small loans of K1 000 for instance from Imaan, to buy food. This is how she came to learn about the two old women’s way of life. Today, the two old women are among the 10 beneficiaries of Mwayi Foundation for the Elderly.
Imaan also likes chatting with elderly beggars on the city streets, learning their stories and helping them whenever she can.
She says it was through such encounters that she located other elderly women in Mpemba who are also in dire need. There are also two elderly sisters in Lirangwe she takes care of.
One of them lost her house to floods and lives with her sister. The arrangement between them was that the sister would provide a place to sleep, but has to cook her own food.
While the sister has a granddaughter who does the cooking, the shelter seeker could not partake in the meals.
With funds from her own pocket and other well-wishers, Imaan buys groceries and foodstuffs to take to these aged women. Those who want to dispose of their old clothes also donate them to her to give to the elderly.
“I am passionate about old people. While in England I worked for a long time in care homes. I also attended a lot of elderly care courses. All these things put together, helped me understand that the elderly go through a lot and that they suffer from different illnesses as they age.
“Dementia is one such illness. It causes memory loss for the elderly and difficulties in thinking, problem-solving or language.
“You might see an elderly person walking about aimlessly in the night and think they are into witchcraft, but all these are just effects of old age. Understanding all these things built my passion for the elderly,” says Imaan who comes from Chamani Village, Traditional Authority Mavwere in Mchinji.
She founded Mwayi Foundation for the Elderly last year. The organisation looks at the basic welfare of the elderly.
Imaan notes that most elderly people are homeless and that the few of them that are accommodated are not well-taken care of in their respective places.
She is currently constructing an elderly care home in Mpemba.
Her organisation is now registered with the Council for non-Governmental Organisations (Congoma), NGO board, and is also affiliated with the Malawi Network for Elderly Persons Organisations (Manepo).
“We want to fully be there for them; provide them three meals a day, clothing, health care and place a roof over their heads,” says the 40-year-old who says that most of the elderly have mobility problems and having them in one place would make it easier to bring a medical practitioner to them.
One might truly appreciate her life as purely dedicated to social work. She has been a social work lecturer at Catholic University since March 2013 and now heads the department.
Among other things, she teaches gerontology, the study of the aging process and old people, and geriatrics – the diseases that old people suffer from.
“With my background, it is easier for the students to understand as I give them real life examples. As a country, we also appreciate that the world is aging and we are trying to come up with programmes that are inclusive of the aged population,” says the mother of 14-year-old Tarisai and three-year-old Tanai. n