Our Journey Booklet

Hospices of Hope was founded by Graham Perolls in 1991 following a trip to Romania.  Graham has seen the organisation develop from very small beginnings into the leading hospice care organisation in South East Europe it is today.

He describes that journey and the vital support we provide to thousands of terminally ill children and adults in Romania, Moldova, Serbia and beyond.

In 1980 my father died from cancer at St Christopher’s Hospice in London and the amazing care he received there inspired me to set up the Ellenor Hospice in my home town of Dartford.

Five years previously, in 1975, I had visited Romania as a tourist.  A chance encounter with a young Romanian couple in the medieval city of Brasov led to a lasting friendship and a deep interest in Romania and its people.

I visited Romania several times during the communist period and returned again a few days after the revolution in the closing days of 1989.

            

A seed was sown 

I had seen the heart breaking images on TV of all the abandoned children in state orphanages and the horrendous conditions in other state institutions but seeing it for myself was simply shocking. 

It was during this visit that I asked my friends to take me to the cancer hospital in Brasov. The consultant in charge of the hospital took me to see a young man who was dying in terrible pain. A seed was sown in my mind that perhaps I could use my experience to do something to help.

I discovered that care for terminally ill patients was non-existent. They were simply sent home to die without access to pain relief or emotional, spiritual and psychological support. Their families had to cope as best they could and this led to untold suffering.

In 1991 I asked the trustees of the Ellenor Hospice to let me to raise funds for Romania. One of the Ellenor nurses offered to go out to Brasov for two years to train our first Romanian hospice nurse.

                         

The first Romanian hospice charity

From that point on, things moved quickly. In 1992 we organised a conference in Brasov to raise awareness of the need for good care at the end of life. This created huge interest.

Following this we registered the first Romanian hospice charity, called Hospice “Casa Sperantei”, (Home of Hope) and employed our first nurse and part-time doctor. 

This small team, supplemented by UK volunteers, visited patients in their own homes in Brasov. Patients and their families were astonished that someone was here to help them free of charge. 

Over time, this small team grew and in 1996, a paediatrician and children’s nurse joined the team. This meant that for the first time, families with terminally ill children had some form of support.                                                                                                                

                          

Breakthroughs continued

For the first 5 years we focused on caring for patients in their own homes.

We recognised the need to train medical professionals so that hospice care could reach other parts of Romania and other countries in the region. In 1997, we built the Princess Diana Education Centre as a residential facility for training medical professionals in end of life care. This new Centre was named after Princess Diana who had supported Casa Sperantei.

                                        

The first hospice

Another breakthrough took place in 1998. The local authority in Brasov gave us a plot of land. This was so that we could build the first in-patient teaching hospice with beds for both adults and children in Romania. This opened in 2002 and soon became recognised as a Centre of Excellence.

   

The USA

Realising that we needed to grow our fundraising base, we opened a small office in Nyack, New York, thanks to the amazing support of Dr Ronna McHammond.  Ronna still runs our US branch of Hospices of Hope.

Increased support for terminally ill patients in the region

In 2003, the Open Society Institute named Hospice Casa Sperantei as a “Palliative Care Beacon” in Central and Eastern Europe and recommended it should become a regional training centre.

Acting on this recommendation we launched the “Beacon Appeal” in 2003. The appeal was launched to increase and improve access to specialist care for terminally ill patients in the region.

We recognised the need to introduce hospice care into the capital city, Bucharest and for a mobile hospice service to be developed to help rural areas. We were also approached by neighbouring countries Serbia and the Republic of Moldova for help.

To address the situation in Bucharest in 2005 we set up a National Resource Centre in the capital and started home care services in the following year. We entered into partnership with a newly formed Serbian charity called BELhospice in 2006.  Then in 2008 we started work in Moldova - initially working with Hospice Angelus in Chisinau but then setting up our own charity to work in more rural areas.     

We also introduced two mobile services in rural areas of Brasov county - Fagaras and Zarnesti- bringing much needed care to patients in two very poor rural areas of Romania.

                           

New Bucharest hospice opened

A long standing dream was realised when we opened the first in-patient teaching hospice in Bucharest. It took 6 years to raise the funds for this project and a significant proportion of the funds were raised in Romania. Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex attended a fund raising lunch in Romania. 

The new hospice was officially opened on September 19th September 2014 when the ribbon was cut by the Duchess of Norfolk and HIRH Dominic Habsburg.

        

The future

In 2012, the Florescu family donated their old summer residence in Copaceni, close to Bucharest so that we can establish a respite and therapy centre for children with life-limiting illnesses. 

We already hold some of our summer trips at Copaceni for sick and bereaved children and their siblings.

We have also launched our campaign to build the first ever in-patient hospice in Serbia.   

           

The need continues 

Since those small beginnings in 1992, we have facilitated care for more than 40,000 patients in Romania, Moldova and Serbia. We have trained more than 20,000 health care professionals from all over Central and Eastern Europe. 

For me personally, it has been a very rewarding journey.

However, I am mindful of the fact that still only 8% of patients in Romania who need hospice care currently receive it and even less in the other countries we work in.

Inspired to carry on 

I didn't imagine that when I first visited Romania over 40 years ago that it would become my second home.

There have been many obstacles to overcome along the journey, but with God’s help and the generosity of so many amazing supporters, so much progress has been achieved. We have been blessed by so many exceptional leaders and staff members in the countries we work in, but it is always the patients and their amazing courage in the face of adversity that gives us all the inspiration to carry on".

 Help us continue our incredible journey...