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A special relationship

Anda_profile_photo_compressed.jpgA special relationship: The Latvian Children’s Palliative Care Society and The Belarusian Children’s Hospice working together for 18 years

By Anda Jansone, Chairman of the Children’s Palliative Care Society, Riga, Latvia

The Latvian Children’s Palliative Care Society and The Belarusian Children’s Hospice, both operating in post-Soviet countries, have been working in partnership for 18 years.

In 1998, at the International Palliative Care Conference in Warsaw, the directors of both these organisations discovered that their organisations were facing similar sets of problems and dealing with issues that had much in common.  They had a very useful exchange of ideas and experiences and regular meetings have continued ever since.

 The idea of formalising the relationship crystallised during the Third International Children’s Palliative Care Conference in Minsk.  This was the first time that palliative care workers from Eastern Europe (Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia and Russia) had come to one forum to discuss their work and learn from each other.  The conference brought together palliative care services from neighbouring countries and, in so doing, highlighted the huge quality gap between these countries.  It became clear that if palliative care was to continue its haphazard development, each project isolated from the other, it would never achieve professional recognition and would disappear altogether from health care provision in Eastern Europe. 

The Belarusian Children’s Hospice (BCH) and the Latvian Children’s Palliative Care Society (CPCS) signed their first co-operation agreement in 2006.  Since then, our two countries have worked closely together ensuring the smooth and well-structured development of children’s palliative care.  Together, both organisations have been awarded several international grants including European Union grants.

The summer of 2007 saw the launch of the two organisations’ joint project under the title Belarusian-Latvian Co-operation in Children’s Palliative Care which was funded by Interreg Cross Border Co-operation No 3 and the EU.  The aim of the project was to provide a sound foundation for co-operation between Belarusian and Latvian children’s palliative care providers, train palliative care workers and expand palliative care services within the national health care structure of both countries.  One of the main tasks was to share knowledge, skills and experience between these two countries as well as with Russia, Ukraine and Moldova.

Another EU-funded project in 2014-15 paid for Anna Garchakova, director of BCH, to help develop documentation on working with groups of grieving parents and to take part in a seminar entitled „Kopā mums ir viegli!” (Together it’s Easier) where she ran a parents’ support group and talked about children’s palliative care in Belarus.  Palliative care professionals from Latvia visited BCH to see parents’ support groups in action. The project culminated in a new agreement being signed between the two organisations, taking their co-operation into the future.  The agreement sets out regular information exchange, training, joint development of training materials and information support for the providers of palliative care services.

Over the years, BCH and the CPCS have jointly produced 6 information leaflets for palliative care specialists and families whose children have life-limiting conditions.

In 2005, the first Summer Programme was run in Lativa, along the lines of the hugely successful BCH Summer Programme in Zabrodie, just outside Minsk.  Now families with special needs children in Latvia are able to enjoy a holiday in the countryside in specially adapted facilities and with professional support like their Belarusian counterparts.

These 18 years of working together have enriched both partners in the relationship.  Each has learned much from the other and that has fed into the development of children’s palliative care provision in Belarus and Latvia.  It is good to know that one can turn to colleagues who understand and are always ready to help.