Charity begins in Romania

10 January 2014

Casa Sperantei: the new hospice supported by Hospices of Hope, in Bucharest

Casa Sperantei: the new hospice supported by Hospices of Hope, in Bucharest

WHILE parts of Britain were bracing themselves for a supposed influx of Romanians and Bulgarians once immigration controls were relaxed on New Year's Day, one Christian charity had other ideas. Hospices of Hope was preparing to open the first ever in-patient teaching hospice in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, offering free care to those suffering from advanced cancer.

The new hospice is the fruit of five years' fund-raising. Despite the fact that the project was launched in 2008 - just as the recession began - the charity's founder, Graham Perolls, said that it had now secured €4.8 million of the €5.6 million needed. Besides treating patients, the hospice will provide care to some people in their homes.

The latest British Social Attitudes survey reveals that half of those who believe immig- ration benefits the country culturally and economically still want to let in fewer migrants.

Mr Perolls said that fears of mass immigration from Romania reflected the extent of the poverty there. The Romanian healthcare system was underfunded, and patients often had to bribe officials to receive care, he said. "People are very often desperate, especially when they are affected by serious illness. I think the best way to alleviate this situation is by helping them to develop better services in Romania, and providing some hope of change."

In a promising development, about 60 per cent of the funding for the hospice has been raised within Romania. Mr Perolls said: "It is so encouraging that Romanians themselves are now grasping the concept of charity, and are supporting the hospice. The new hospice has truly been built with a lot of generosity and love. It is no small miracle that the project has been achieved in a time of severe economic hardship - a result of so many people's faithfulness and prayers."

The charity set up its first hospice in Romania in 1992, and now claims to be the leading provider of palliative care in the whole of south-east Europe. Mr Perolls said that a combination of a chance visit to Romania in 1975 and his father's entering a hospice after being diagnosed with cancer spurred him to begin his work.

Inspired by the care given to his father, Mr Perolls started the hospice charity Ellenor Foundation in 1985. After the end of Communism in Romania, he returned to the Eastern European nation, and realised that it, too, needed a hospice movement. "I remember visiting the cancer hospital in Brasov and watching a young man die in terrible pain," he said. "The consultant said that he could do little: there was no morphine, and the conditions in the hospital were appalling."

Today, Hospices of Hope also works in Serbia and Moldova, has provided care for up to 15,000 patients, and trained some 13,000 people in hospice care.

Mr Perolls was recognised in the New Year Honours list by being appointed a Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George.

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