What a year it has been! So much effort has gone into building the new children’s palliative care centre in Minsk that at times the Belarusian Children’s Hospice (BCH) has seemed a little overshadowed. Nevertheless, BCH has continued its splendid work caring for chronically and terminally ill children and their families at home, quietly providing them with medicines, equipment, food supplements and other items free of charge as well as the medical, psychological and social support provided by the BCH team.
This year, BCH has cared for a total of 250 children and their families throughout Belarus. Most of its patients live in Minsk and the surrounding region but it is still sending out mobile teams to care for patients up to four hours’ drive away which means a ten hour day for the team member and driver visiting the child. The waiting list for its services in Minsk is long enough but in some other parts of the country it is very long indeed.
A couple of years ago, to take the pressure off its own staff and resources and to better serve the country’s population of chronically and terminally ill children, BCH started looking for support to help build a bigger hospice. The state suggested providing a substantial piece of land for free on which to construct a larger building. This would be the best equipped and the best skilled children’s palliative care centre in all the former Soviet countries. BCH agreed to manage the project until such time as it opened. We all realised that the new centre would be too large a project for BCH to run and neither did we, Friends of BCH, want to commit to something of that size so a new organisation was recently registered called the Belarusian National Children’s Palliative Care Centre (BNCPCC). This organisation, funded by the state, will be responsible for running the new building.
Anna Garchakova, the founder and director of BCH, has nursed this project from its inception to its nearing completion and will be on the supervisory board of BNCPCC but we are glad to say that she has opted to remain at BCH in the future.
The new building is looking fabulous and we are very grateful to the Maurice and Hilda Laing Charitable Trust for their significant contribution. Its director has visited Minsk three times with me and Friends of BCH trustee Antoinette Ferraro and, as a result, the Trust made a grant of £250k towards the Day Centre in the new building.
We look forward to the launch of the new BNCPCC in its brand new state-of-the-art building in 2016 and to going back to ‘life as normal’ with BCH which will remain in the beautiful yellow house that we purchased for it some 10 years ago with money raised from several UK grant making trusts, including Laing.
We are also grateful to Laing for their continuing support of BCH through Friends of BCH. In 2016 they will be funding the salary of a children’s physiotherapist at BCH. Physiotherapy has only recently been recognised in Belarus and the first professional physio, Katya, has been working at BCH for a year now. Katya was a children’s palliative nurse at BCH who left to have a baby. Towards the end of her maternity leave she retrained as a physio and re-joined the BCH team in her new capacity. She is extremely popular with her young patients who benefit greatly from her skills. We are hoping to be able to fund a second physio for the team next year.
There have been changes in BCH’s fundraising department too. Elena Anisimava moved on, tempted by an offer she could not refuse from an international company. She still continues to offer advice and to take an interest as she said, ‘BCH is like being part of a family’. The fundraising team is now made up of Elena Sergeeva ably supported by Anya and Sveta and, of course, Anna Garchakova herself and our little team here in the UK.
Onwards and upwards, we go into 2016 to further develop BCH’s Hospice at Home care services in Minsk to bring palliative care and support to enable children to remain in their own home surrounded by family. It will be nice to have the stress of the new building taken off our shoulders and the care teams will be able to offer improved services to children in Minsk once they no longer have to regularly cover huge distances to reach terminally ill children and families in far-flung places in Belarus.
To all the supporters of Friends of BCH, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT! Truly, without you this wonderful project could not have survived thus far. If any of you think you might like to join us for a trip to Minsk in the first half of 2016 for the opening of the new building and to see BCH at work please do let us know. We cannot offer to cover any costs but we can help you to plan your trip and we may be able to provide some accommodation with volunteers’ families.
It only remains to wish you all a very HAPPY CHRISTMAS with GOOD HEALTH AND HAPPINESS IN THE NEW YEAR!
Daryl Ann Hardman
Chairwoman of Friends of BCH