I seem to have lost all track of time, there is always so much to do! I have suddenly realised that I haven’t written anything in this blog for ages, practically six months! So much has happened in that time that even picking out the most significant events is not going to be an easy task. The most important thing to tell you is, that here at the hospice, things are going from strength to strength, in fact much better than the rather conservative targets I set myself a year ago. During the 11 months of 2010 that are already behind us as I write, we have managed to raise £90,000 from residents of Belarus. That is twice as much as I had forecast at the start of the year and represents 60.5% of our current turnover. On the other hand, inflation means that prices have gone up by 10-15% this year. We therefore forecast our overall spend in 2010 will be in the order of £160,000 which is 30% higher than expected.
In September 2010 we welcomed a major new sponsor, the large Belarusian-Russian mobile phone company Mobile TeleSystems (MTS). They have undertaken to support the in-patient programme to the tune of £10,600. In all, over 70 companies have supported the hospice this year which is fantastic.
In July we launched a charity telephone line. Supporters of the hospice just need to dial 8-902-101-0000 and the call generates a donation of £1.20 for the hospice. This is then charged to the caller and appears on their bill at the end of the month. It took us about four months to set this line up and we are very grateful to Beltelecom, the state telephone company, which laid 250 metres of telephone cable to the hospice for free and does not charge us for using the line. We are also grateful to the International Children’s Fund for financing the equipment needed for this line. Now we are enjoying the fruits of all our efforts: during July, the first month of the line’s existence we made £1,258, in August £472, in September £1,127 and in October £2,531. This means that in the first four months income from the line totalled £5,388, which, I am sure you will agree, is an excellent result. We certainly had not expected anything quite so spectacular!
In late October, thanks to Friends of the Belarusian Children’s Hospice (UK) and the Laing Trust, I was lucky enough to once again visit Richard House Children’s Hospice in London where not only was I able to gather more information about the work of fundraisers but was also able to take part in preparations for their annual fundraising ball which took place in the Grange Hotel on 2nd November. The ball was a grand and splendid occasion for 400 guests. For someone like me who had never before been present at such an occasion, it was all totally new, surprising and wonderful. I tried to take copious notes, photos and to write up everything that I did, saw, heard and learned. During the ball I caught myself several times thinking that it would be a fantastic idea to hold something similar in Belarus. We would need to make it a quality event and this, of course, would take a great deal of time and preparation. If we start thinking now about holding a ball in the autumn of 2011 we would need to be putting the first arrangements in place in January. In general, my second visit to London has again filled me to the brim with new ideas and impetus and has made me feel better qualified to work on a highly professional level.
Another important aspect of my stay at Richard House was to try to understand exactly how its charity shops function to support it. Unfortunately, the tax system in Belarus is very complicated and this is especially so for private business (which is what a charity shop would be classified as here). Nevertheless, I think that next year we could perhaps try to open a charity shop. I am writing this with my fingers firmly crossed…
This autumn we hope to have set in motion a new tradition – celebrating the birthday of the Belarusian Children’s Hospice at embassies. On 28 October there was a reception at the Belarusian embassy in London with famous musicians, international diplomats and other public figures present. A fortnight later there was a charity dinner at the British embassy in Minsk. The dinner was attended by leading Belarusian businessmen, opera singers and artists and raised over £6,500! How wonderful it would be if such events were to become annual occurrences.
On 19th December 2010 the presidential elections will take place in Belarus. Observers and analysts alike expect many changes in connection with the elections, particularly in the economic and social spheres. We hope that these changes will be for the better and will help us to continue our rapid growth rate. This applies not only to finances. With every year we are able to increase the help we give to families with chronically and terminally ill children. Unfortunately, given the nature of our work, with every year this also means that the number of children who die in the hospice increases. So far this year 32 children have passed away. It is difficult to write any meaningful comment after such a bald statistic. Yet we should not forget that in the same year, the hospice worked with 112 children who were able to live free from pain thanks to the services of our nurses, carers, doctors, psychologists and social workers. That’s 112 families who at year’s end thank us and all those who have supported the hospice. We would like to pass on their thanks to Friends of the Belarusian Children’s Hospice (UK) because it is precisely because of your support that we are not only able to survive but to move forward and develop. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!