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Official opening of Forest Glade, the new Belarusian children’s palliative care centre

DSCF8358 cropped and compressedThe vision of a purpose-built, world class children’s palliative care centre in Belarus has been realised. To mark the opening of this fabulous new building, a red ribbon was cut by the Belarusian First Deputy Minister for Health Dmitry Pinevich and the Deputy Chair of the BCH Advisory Council Olga Kobyakova.S0258496 cropped and compressed

The facilities at Forest Glade are, by any standards, impressive and will be a centre of excellence from where BCH can support the growing number of children and families who need their services and facilitate the on-going training of health professions in the western model of children’s palliative care.

Forest Glade is on the outskirts of Minsk in a tranquil setting surrounded on three sides by woodland. The horse-shoe shaped building is welcoming, spacious, colourful and flooded with light. BCH’s main programme will continue to be Hospice at Home co-ordinated from the new building and there is a day-centre there where children, their carers and their well brothers and sisters can socialise and enjoy regular activities organised by hospice staff. There are treatment rooms where physiotherapy will be available and a wonderful multi-sensory room with changing lights, coloured fibre optic strands cascading over beanbags, different tactile experiences and mirrors. Take a peek here. The ten in-patient rooms which will provide respite care and end of life care are spacious, well equipped with medical services and aids, have en-suite wet rooms and direct, easy access to the gardens which all these rooms overlook through large floor to ceiling windows. There is also accommodation for parents/carers who wish to stay with their child.

A circular chapel, beautifully furnished and decorated by Sister Vera, was dedicated by two Orthodox priests and provides an oasis for prayer or quiet contemplation for everyone - children, parents, family, BCH staff. View part of the dedication here.

The conference/education centre on the first floor will be well used to deliver training courses and spread best practice to medical professionals in Belarus and beyond to other ex-Soviet countries asking for advice on how to set up children’s palliative care services.

DSCF8548 cropped and compressedFriends of BCH have been a major partner of BCH both financially and in an advisory capacity for many years. When the president of Belarus gave the land on which to build a new hospice to BCH, Friends of BCH funded and co-ordinated a visit to the UK for the Belarusian architect tasked with drawing up plans. He visited Little Havens Hospice and Richard House Hospice to tour the buildings and talk to staff and met architects of UK hospices. Armed with this information, he designed what is arguably the best children’s hospice in Europe. BCH’s fundraising department, set up and funded by Friends of BCH, worked tirelessly to raise funds needed to make the plans materialise and, in the UK, the Hilda and Maurice Laing Charitable Trust, which has supported Friends of BCH for a number of years, made a grant of £250k for the day centre.

All the trustees of Friends of BCH had resolved that they would be at the opening of Forest Glade, the latest and hugely significant achievement by ground-breaking BCH as part of its ongoing international co-operation with the UK. So with great anticipation, they set off for Minsk, at their own cost, with a loyal group of supporters, two trustees of the Hilda and Maurice Laing Charitable Trust and the director of Richard House Hospice which is twinned with BCH. The opening was a splendid occasion attended by HE Fionna Gibb, UK ambassador to Belarus, the Ambassadors of the USA, Germany and the Delegation of the European Union to Belarus and a wealth of others who have supported this project. After the red ribbon was cut, everyone was welcomed with a traditional offering of bread and salt and split into smaller groups for a tour of the building and its excellent facilities. They gathered later in the conference room for speeches, celebratory champagne and canapés. Anna Garchakova, the founder and director of BCH, spoke about how the realisation of one of her dreams had been achieved and thanked the many people who had helped to bring it about. This purpose-built, state of the art facility that will provide palliative care to children with life-limiting illnesses was open for business. It was a moment of immense achievement for Anna, BCH staff and trustees of Friends of BCH and the continuation of the tremendous, life-changing work started in 1994.DSCF8596 cropped and compressed

The UK delegation also met BCH staff at the old BCH building where, for more than a decade, they have provided palliative care free of charge to thousands of sick children and their families. It was very apparent that BCH has increased its level of activity to such an extent that it is bursting at the seams there and that moving to the new building will enable it to grow even more and improve quality of care. BCH nurses and carers took visitors to meet some of the children they care for on the hospice at home programme. There was also a day trip to BCH’s summer project in the countryside village of Zabrodie. The sun shone and a happy group of well brothers and sisters of hospice children were enjoying two weeks’ holiday being looked after by hospice staff and volunteers from the UK and Germany. There were also three families, each with a disabled child, starting a fortnight’s holiday in Stork House.

Friends of BCH trustee, Jane Curtis, wrote, ‘Our expectations of what we would see on our trip to Belarus for the opening of the new hospice were already very high but were exceeded many times over. The new hospice is a wonderful building and everyone involved on the ground there is so proud of what they have been able to achieve. The stories we came back with from our visits to the families of sick children and the visit to the summer camp are very humbling. It was heart-warming to see what can be done for so little. There is so much more that we can do to make a real difference to the lives of the families with children affected by chronic illness and they are so grateful. There are some wonderful volunteers from the UK who are an inspiration to us all not least our own chairwoman Daryl Ann who commands the respect and admiration of everyone she meets.’

The legal name of Forest Glade is the State Republican Clinical Centre of Children’s Medical Palliative Care.