Cultivating a Culture of Compassionate Caregiving Under Poverty's Constraints: An Ethnography of Kenyan Child Life and Hospice Caregivers
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Research on compassionate caregiving in impoverished settings focuses on either cultural differences or the effects of poverty, but fails to account for what occurs when institutions are able to intervene in both areas. This paper examines care for ill and dying children in impoverished communities and the intersection of compassion, culture, and poverty as it plays out for families, medical professionals, and child life and hospice caregivers. This ethnography in Kenyan child life and hospice institutions was informed by theories that suggest health and caregiving are social experiences that are influenced by poverty's constraints. This research shows that (1) compassionate caregiving is enhanced when child life and hospice caregivers are given both adequate social support for changing the cultural narrative and sufficient material and financial resources to address complex health needs, and (2) witnessing caregivers' compassionate actions is changing the illness narratives of families and the larger healthcare field. This strongly suggests that compassionate caregiving in impoverished settings will be enhanced only if these changing narratives are accompanied by an increase in material and social resources.
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