This time I am writing after only a couple of months. But what months they have been! The end of the year brings Christmas and New Year, the time of magic and gifts. It’s probably true to say that everyone who has done something for anyone else during the year is a bringer of magic. The recipe for magic is simple – a wave of the wand (maybe add in some muttered magic words) and you have done something wonderful for people who need your help. Maybe your piece of magic will change their lives. Charity, doing things for others, is a sort of magic. It brings the warmth of Christmas to a cold winter.
At the Belarusian Children’s Hospice we believe in magic. This is because we believe in the people who support us, we believe in what we do. With each year that passes our belief gets stronger. Thank you very much for this. It gives us great pleasure to thank Friends of the Belarusian Children’s Hospice (UK) and also the people in Belarus who have supported us, particularly the 4,485 who used the Hospice’s charity telephone line in December and donated £5,440. For me, December was a fantastic month because we raised £29,000. That is a record and it is way beyond anything we have ever achieved before. The only problem is that I feel I have to work even harder now to beat the new record!
Today, I have taken time to look back over the past year.
I like doing that, seeing the fruits of our hard work and, on the whole, things are looking good. In 2010 we not only achieved our goals but surpassed them. We raised £119,225 from people living in Belarus, three times more than in 2009, but there is, of course, a fly in the ointment – the economic crisis. Last year, inflation in Belarus was 9.9% which meant that our outgoings were a lot higher. It cost us £168,300 to run our main programmes, an increase of 36.4% compared with 2009. Prices in Belarus are still rising fast. According to official statistics they rose by 3.7% in January-February alone which would mean an annual inflation rate of 20% if it carries on that way.
Despite all the political and economic events happening around us, the Belarusian Children’s Hospice is a small, sandy coloured (literally) tropical island of calm. We are all working so hard that there does not seem to be time for anything else, maybe this is why external events sometimes seem to fade into the background and become insignificant when, every day, we see families whose children are dying.
Sadly, 2011 began on a muted note for us. From 1 January – 24 February 12 children died in the Hospice, 7 of them from cancer. That is a lot of children and the Hospice staff are affected on each and every occasion. This is a personal example. I don’t normally work with the terminally ill patients, I am responsible for fundraising and PR, nursing care is not my job but a couple of weeks ago I was asked to help carry a young teenager upstairs to the in-patient rooms. Sadly, the next day he died. I cannot get his face out of my mind, the way he looked at me as though asking for help and I had nothing to give. We lit yet another candle for the departed and yet another photograph has been added to our Memory Board. This is just one child, just one pair of eyes burned into my memory. How must it be for our nurses who work with these children every day? Each one of our nurses has a regular caseload of 15 to 20 severely ill children.
2011 is the 25th anniversary of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station. Some people say that all the Chernobyl related problems are over. At the same time the number of patients presenting with new malignancies in Belarus has more than doubled over the last ten years. At the end of 1990 it was 105,450 and by the end of 2009 it had risen to 234,161*. It has been a relentless rise. On average the number of people presenting with new malignant tumours has gone up by 7,000 - 10,000 per year.
The Hospice is here to provide palliative care for children with cancer or other life-limiting diseases and with your help we are succeeding. Their lives may have been brief but they have experienced joy, love, laughter and friendship and left precious memories for their families. Thank you for bringing your bit of magic to our Hospice.
*Information taken from Belarusian Ministry of Health statistics