We have been involved in supporting children’s hospice care for children for the last sixteen years, supporting the Belarusian Children’s Hospice in Minsk; funding a home care team in Gomel and helping to spread palliative care throughout the country.
Anna Gorchakova was a psychologist at the Children’s Cancer Hospital and she became acutely aware of the need to give support at home to children whose treatment had failed, so that they could die free from pain and with their family around them.
20 years ago she established the Belarusian Children’s Hospice to support such children in the Minsk area. We have worked with Anna to organise visits of hospice nurses to the UK and to take palliative care specialists to Belarus.
In January 2000 we established the first children’s ‘home hospice’ outside Minsk, in Gomel (see below). Since then, small hospice teams have been set up in Vitebsk, Mogilev (through an Irish charity), Pinsk (funded by Chernobyl Children, Rye) Slonim (supported by Heart, Hope, Help) from the UK .
During the past fourteen years we have funded a Palliative Care Team in Gomel City, with professional advice and support from the Hospice in Minsk. The current team is headed by Dr Irina Kalmanovich. With three nurses and a psychologist Irina is providing medical, social and emotional support to 30 families living in the city whose children have severe genetic disorders, life limiting conditions or terminal illnesses. The team also organise parties and events for the families. They have a fund raiser who is successfully approaching local businesses for support and they and work closely with Natasha Samoilick, the head of our partners in Gomel, ‘Supporting Children Together’.
In 2012/13, with a grant from the Raisa Gorbachev Foundation, we funded hospice medical director Natasha Savva to study at Cardiff University for a Diploma in Palliative Medicine. Natasha was then able to work with the Ministry of Health in Minsk to establish a system for spreading understanding of palliative care for children throughout the country.
Anna Gorchakova is currently undertaking the huge task of building a hospice and palliative care centre, which will be the first purpose built hospice in Eastern Europe
We have continued to bring doctors and nurses from Belarus on visits to the UK, and to send palliative care specialists from Britain to Belarus to give advice and training. We are particularly grateful for the help we have had from Francis House Children’s Hospice in Manchester and Martin House Children’s Hospice in Yorkshire. We have also been welcomed at Spring Hill Hospice in Rochdale, St. Ann’s Hospice, Manchester; Hope House, near Oswestry; Acorns in Birmingham; Severn Hospice and Hannah House.
We have a Palliative Care Consultant to help us in our work. John Costello is a nurse and senior lecturer in palliative care in Manchester. He has recently spent time giving training to develop the adult hospice care programme in Belarus, and he works closely with Anna Gorchakova.
Click here to see the Belarusian Children’s Hospice website.