2018 was a milestone year for our charity. It was twenty years ago that I was first bowled over by the positive energy and determination of Anna Garchakova, director of The Belarusian Children's Hospice (BCH). This was the first children's hospice in the Soviet Union, set up by Anna in 1994, in response to childhood cancers following Chernobyl. At that time it was small, caring for 25 or so children at home. It bucked the traditional approach, handed down from Soviet times, that disabled and terminally ill children should be shut away in institutions.
In the 20 years since that first meeting, we have helped BCH to grow into an authoritative centre of excellence that has a large new building in Minsk where it cooperates in an unprecedented, for Belarus, manner with the state medical sector. Between them, the two children's palliative services now care for over 600 families. To this, we can add hundreds more children with chronic and terminal conditions around the country being cared for by BCH's mobile service as well as regional centres and children's hospices set up with BCH advice.
It is almost impossible to list Friends of BCH's highlights during these 20 years. For ten of those years, we paid all the staff salaries at BCH.
We also initiated BCH's fundraising department in Minsk, recruiting and training the first fundraisers. This was probably the first dedicated fundraising team in the country.
Shortly afterwards, we set up the BCH Advisory Council, of which I am still an active member. For three years we were very actively engaged in a major PR campaign in Belarus to help raise over £2m to build the new palliative care centre named Forest Glade. A quarter of a million of this came as a grant to us from The Laing Trusts in the UK.
Friends of BCH's largest project to date has been the development of children's physiotherapy at BCH, pioneering the UK's child centred approach. Looking forward, we have plans to create a paediatric physiotherapy teaching module for use at Belarusian postgraduate medical colleges so that all over Belarus this will become part of the standard care of children with multiple disabilities and chronic conditions.
Next year, we will be funding a new transition programme at BCH called the Youth Project. Until now, young people ‘graduating’ from BCH had nowhere to turn, there was no provision. So keen is the new transition team, currently one social worker and one legal adviser, that they have started work on the project, even before its official launch in January 2019!
It is amazing what can be achieved by a small charity run by 6 volunteer trustees and supported by a faithful group of small donors. Without your standing orders, 100 Club memberships, sponsored events, grants and other contributions, we would not have been able to achieve nearly so much. Please will you continue to support us as we take these major activities forward into 2019? Every penny donated is spent carefully and we keep administrative costs to the absolute minimum.
Thank you so very much!
Wishing you a very Happy Christmas and many blessings in the new year.
Daryl Ann Hardman
Chairwoman of Friends of BCH