Growing up in a decent-sized shack in Belville, Olivia Pharo’s dream was to become a social worker one day. However, she believes God’s plan led her to become a successful nurse.
Based in Atlantis, a small town just outside Cape Town, Pharo is a nurse with more than 30 years of experience and has been a nurse manager for 18 years at the local hospital.
Pharo who comes from a large family, is the third of six children. Her childhood was very rich in tradition, with a Catholic upbringing. Due to the black shadow of molestation looming large in her family, she says she is not a victim but a survivor and recalls a very happy childhood.
Finding her path to nursing
“As a teenager, I used to belong to societies that provided food to the poor and needy. I belonged to the St. Vincent de Paul group to help poor societies. I also assisted in the mobile clinic as a teenager that came to Atlantis, I volunteered to do so.
Nursing was her mother’s dream, and due to her involvement in the struggle of politics, she did not have good matric results and was not accepted to become a social worker. She, however, went back to rewrite one of her subjects and reapplied.
“Due to a very strict mother, whose focus was mainly on education and religion, this was an ultimate goal for her children, so she forced me to apply for nursing, which she also did. At the time, we had four nursing colleges in Cape Town. I applied to one, and by faith, I got into one at Tygerberg Hospital; it was God’s plan, not mine.”
Driven by a dedication to serving her community
After working as a nurse for 33 years, Pharo resigned in 2018 and used her pension fund to open a primary healthcare facility in Atlantis, which is a one-stop service for the poor.
Her decision was based on personal experiences, nepotism, the job no longer being satisfactory, her passion being suppressed, and her dedication to the field. Opening her own clinic has been of great assistance and a haven for the community.
“But by the grace of God and the support of my husband and two daughters, I’m still here, hoping that this will change to assist our community in this much-needed service.”
Regardless of the challenge of accessing the proper referral systems from one level to another, Pharo is proud of her dedication and commitment to offering this service and other ventures to people and being the most cost-effective healthcare provider in her community.
Not done yet
“I have started with my other passion, training home-based workers, and am hoping to open my own training facility, as well as a step-down facility in Atlantis. The nearest step-down facility is 52 kilometres away.
“This will add value to our already depressed community in terms of transportation, and financial means that will curb our people’s desire to get their families to step down facilities. This leads to patients dying in step-down facilities without their family members and basic needs being given by families to their family members admitted in step-down facilities.”
Despite not having a salary for two years, Pharo adopted five elderly people from the community and, for the entire year, saw to their medical needs. This year, she will again be adopting other five elderly people, and seeing their illnesses.
Pharo is a true testament to her profession – a caring nurse who lives to make others’ lives better with no expectations.
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