Together we can: Palliative Care volunteering in Bangladesh

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, and Featured.

In this innovative project, the WHPCA, partnering with BSMMU, and funded by UK Aid Direct aims to build a compassionate community to ensure people access the health care that they need when living with and dying from serious illness in the Narayanganj City Corporation of Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh people are living and dying with serious pain and suffering because there are so few hospice and palliative care services and essential palliative care is not included as part of Universal Health Coverage.

The project aims to address this by providing a model of care in one Bangladesh city which shows how compassionate palliative care alleviates suffering, positively impacts people’s quality of life and is a cost effective and ethical imperative of health systems. It is crucial for achieving Universal Health Coverage – one of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed by all governments in 2015.


“I think only Palliative Care teaches us how to make an unknown person your near and dear one! I’ve learned a lot from the team members of the Compassionate Narayanganj project. I want this project to last a lifetime in Narayanganj and make more volunteers like me. Volunteering means to serve others or do something good to others. As a community volunteer, I’ve done different things at different times for this project. Above all, I like to serve the patients very much because serving the people who need help seems more meaningful to me.” expressed by Mahmuda Akter Panna, one of our active volunteers from Compassionate Narayanganj project.

Volunteer Mahmuda Akter Panna is feeding patient Md. Sazedul Islam

We have conducted nine 3-day training programs for community volunteers. A total 206 volunteers (male 71 & female 135) have been trained. Out of them, about 50 of the volunteers are actively cooperating with us in various activities. Mahmuda Akter Panna is one of them.

Panna prefers to visit patient’s home and serves them because in this she gets peace of mind. We’re sharing a story about Panna from which it’ll be easy to understand how much she cares for the patients.

Once Panna went for a home visit to one of our registered patients named Md. Sazedul Islam (Age: 27) who is bedridden as a result of polio. When Panna was talking to him and his mother, she found out that Sazed’s very fond of sweets, but due to financial insolvency, his mother could not buy it for him. Upon hearing this, Panna became very upset and decided to do something for Sazed. She came back home after finishing the home visit and shared the whole thing with her mother. Panna had some deposited money which she decided to spend to buy sweets for Sazed. This was during the COVID-19 pandemic when she received some money from another organization in Narayanganj, some of which she spent on household costs, and some she saved to go on a picnic with her friend circle! The next day, she went to the sweet shop, bought some sweets, and went to Sazed’s home alone with her mother and let him eat sweets. Sazed’s very happy to eat them. Sazed’s mother was also very happy to see him eating sweets. It was a truly memorable event for all of us. This is not the end, whenever Panna goes on a home visit to a patient; she takes something for that patient.’

Volunteer Mahmuda Akter Panna is talking with patient Nahar

Like Mahmuda Akter Panna, we have some other volunteers who are actively supporting us. Not just patient care, they’re helping us in many ways. Volunteers play a very important role if you want to implement Palliative Care in such a large community like Narayanganj City Corporation. To develop and expand community based Palliative Care, one of the vital points is volunteer’s role. There are some activities we can mention:

  1. They are helping the Palliative Care Assistants in patient care. They are now actively visiting patient’s house, providing care to the patients and helping to find out more about the patients.
  2. When we want to organize a program, they help us.
  3. They are referring patients from the community who are suffering from life-limiting or life threatening illness.
  4. They are being able to sensitize the community through distributing our leaflets, brochures etc.
  5. We are the first who are making products and selling our own products to the public. Community volunteers have also begun to engage in production.

Mahmuda Akter Panna also said, “Palliative Care brings radical change in my life. I get tranquility of the mind when I work with Palliative Care. I always try to stay with Palliative Care. This is undoubtedly a noble work. No matter where I am, I will work for Palliative Care as well.”


Compassionate Narayanganj is a pilot project funded by UK Aid Direct, a unique collaboration between Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), the Worldwide Hospice & Palliative Care Alliances (WHPCA) and the Narayanganj City Corporation (NCC) to ensure the availability of palliative care services.

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