Staff to travel to Zimbabwe to share expertise and donate much-needed equipment

August 21, 2019

A team of mental health professionals from the Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) is preparing to travel to Zimbabwe next month.

The Zimbabwe Life Project team during their trip to Zimbabwe in 2018.

Nine nurses and a physiotherapist will make the trip on September 21 to share their expertise with staff from mental health facilities across the country and donate much needed medical equipment.

The initiative, known as the Zimbabwe Life Project, was created by Lucia Vambe, a Practice Development Lead Nurse at EPUT.

Lucia was born in Zimbabwe and moved to the UK to begin a career in nursing more than 25 years ago. She has been a mental health nurse for 15 years and came up with the Zimbabwe Life Project as a way of using her experience to help improve patient care in her native country.

Some of the Zimbabwe Life Project team during a visit to a rehabilitation centre in Zimbabwe last year.

This is the second time Lucia and her colleagues will embark on the trip, using their annual leave and funding their travel expenses.

In September last year, a team of doctors, nurses, therapists and social workers delivered a series of workshops to more than 50 staff from mental health hospitals, rehabilitation centres and a prison across the country.

This year Lucia will be joined by nine colleagues from EPUT and eleven from other NHS Trusts including East London, Hertfordshire and Rotherham and Doncaster Partnership NHS Foundation Trusts as well as Essex County Council and a number of private hospitals.

They will travel to Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, and Bulawayo, one of the country’s largest cities, to share specialist mental health skills and build positive relationships with mental health professionals there.

The team will also be delivering a donation of medical equipment including defibrillators, blood pressure machines, blood glucose monitoring machines, bandages, syringes, zimmer frames and crutches to four hospitals, a rehabilitation centre and prison.

Lucia Vambe said: “A few years ago I went home to visit a family member who was unwell and was moved to see how the hospitals were functioning with very limited staff and medical supplies. I wanted to do something to help and came up with the Zimbabwe Life Project.

“The project is designed to help make a difference to mental health ser
vices. Despite operating in difficult conditions, the staff in Zimbabwe are dedicated and professional and want to do all they can to offer the best possible care. This trip is about us engaging with our counterparts to exchange knowledge, skills and experiences and ultimately improve care.

Some of the donated medical supplies and equipment being shipped to Zimbabwe.

“The equipment that has been donated is already on its way to Harare and Bulawayo. While it is deemed to have reached the end of its life within the UK, it will make such a difference in Zimbabwe where there is such a shortage of supplies.

“Every member of the team wants to make a difference and is volunteering their own time and is self-funding their expenses. “

The team has secured a grant from the Burdette Trust, an independent charitable trust that supports nurse-led projects seeking to make improvements in patient care, and has been busy organising their own fund raising activities to fund the trip.

All of the money raised has been used to help fund air fares and the cost of shopping the donations to Zimbabwe.

You can follow the Lucia and the team on Twitter @LuciaVambe and find out more about the project on Facebook at www.facebook.com/zimbabwelifeproject

You can also find out more on the Zimbabwe Life Project website www.zlp.org.uk