Six American women visited South African hospice programs and engaged in cross-cultural conversations about women, terminal illness, and care giving.  With an accompanying film crew, they met patients, caregivers, nurses, physicians, and administrators in both urban-based hospices and a rural program in central South Africa.  With them, we see home visits, support groups, and day-care programs.  We see hope and love.

The perspectives of the American women increase our understanding of this innovative and successful model to manage progressive, life-threatening diseases, one that is nearly unique in the world of hospice.  The women on the trip came away surprised by the successes, frustrated by the challenges, informed by the delivery systems, and inspired by the relentless determination not to fail. 


Janet S. Parrott serves as the director/producer of the film Song of the Soul: Stories of Hospice in South Africa. She is an independent filmmaker who has directed and produced commercial and industrial work, produced her own films and has collaborated with independent artists creating works for stage and screen. She is a retired dancer/performer who has translated her love of cultures, storytelling and movement into films. Janet holds degrees in anthropology and filmmaking.

In partnership with the films executive producer, Catherine Chapin Kobacker, she and others spent three weeks in the summer of 2005 and two weeks in 2006 filming and interviewing hospice nurses and care workers in South Africa. Their aim was to document the lives of those who serve their communities ravaged with HIV/AIDS. What they witnessed was resourcefulness and generosity in the midst of limited resources, dignity and grace in the midst of poverty, and the effective practice of hospice and palliative care as an exemplar of community-based compassionate care.

Janet Parrott is currently teaching filmmaking in the department of Theatre at Ohio State University.

Catherine Chapin Kobacker, Executive Producer of the South Africa film project and 25-year hospice volunteer, initiated the trip. She has traveled to Russia and Poland as well as South Africa to examine end-of-life practices. This comparative view brought a wider perspective to the group. Her many contacts in South Africa facilitated the warmth and candor of many discussions.