My goal is to transform the community to an accepting society in which everyone gets involved in supporting and caring for terminally ill patients.
No one, says Sakkaphan "Golf" Sawatphanit ’13, should ever have to die alone.
Inspired by an internship experience during his time at Bucknell, Sawatphanit began an effort to offer free hospice and palliative care training to community members in Southeast Asia, and that idea earned him a spot representing his home country of Thailand in the Power of Entrepreneurship Regional Exchange Program through the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. Through the program, Sawatphanit will join other young leaders from the region in developing business models for their new ventures.
“My goal is to transform the community to an accepting society in which everyone gets involved in supporting and caring for terminally ill patients,” he says. “I have learned that hospice and palliative care are underdeveloped in most of this region, and access to this care is rare. Terminally ill patients are often isolated from the rest of society. They have to live with fear and anxiety associated with end of life, and they have to do it without support from the community because of the culture.”
It’s heavy work, especially for a young alumnus, but Sawatphanit was inspired by his Bucknell internship as an emergency room medical scribe at Williamsport Regional Medical Center. While taking notes for medical personnel, he witnessed the crestfallen expressions that crossed the faces of patients and their families when the doctor told them there was no more that could be done to offset the spread of their illnesses.
“That impression led me to the hospice volunteer program,” he says. “I felt I should get involved to help them and support them.”
In addition to serving as a hospice volunteer, Sawatphanit organized the Thainellicious Project at Bucknell, which raised about $1,500 for a children’s hospice unit in Thailand. Out of that grew the Aseanellian Project, which not only aims to provide free hospice training, but to provide volunteer services to any patient and family in the region, regardless of their ability to pay.
“Aseanellian is meant to be the bridge to connect the community to terminally ill patients,” he says. “I try to send a message to everyone that hospice and palliative care is everyone’s matter.
“It’s difficult to watch people dying. But just sitting there and listening to these patients is helpful and makes them feel so much better. There are so many ways to help. They may be small things, but it tells them that we’re not giving up, and it tells them that they are not alone.”
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