8 months ago

Diplomatic World_nummer 56.


BELHOSPICE FAITH, HOPE, LOVE BE THERE FOR THOSE WHO NEED HELP LEO D‘AES - BELGIAN AMBASSADOR IN SERBIA I arrived in Belgrade in the beginning of 2014 and after a couple of months, in May or June, I went to a classical concert in the City hall of Belgrade, organized for the benefit of what I then started to know as BELhospice. I started being interested in this specific case and a little while afterwards I was contacted by the fundraiser of BELhospice. She said: ‘We saw you were there. We understand that you are the Belgian Ambassador. Would you like to help us with our work, f.i. by giving a fundraising concert in your residence?’ So I said: ‘Of course, happily. I am most willing to do that.’ So we did a fundraising concert in the Belgian residence in Belgrade. It was not a big thing: we were about 50 or 60 people but it was a lovely event, full of solidarity, with very good Serbian artists. Serbia has a lot of musical talent, pianists and violinists, it was a splendid evening. And then it continued, because I was then approached by Mr Graham Perolls, the Director of the organization ‘Hospices of Hope’: a British charity organisation that funds Hospices where terminally ill people are being given hope, not of getting cured but of passing the last days or weeks or months of their years in dignity. And this is the whole concept of Hospices: you are welcome, we know you are fighting but losing a battle against a terminal illness, but you count for us, and we know that every day counts for you. And that is the spirit behind it. BELhospice, now directed by Vera Madzgalj, was founded in 2006 by Dr. Natasha Milicevic. As a doctor she saw that there was an enormous need to help the people in Serbia who have this critical illness. She started by organizing the home care service, that means going to these people’s homes where they are completely lost. A very important aspect is not only caring for these patients but also caring for the family members. And that is the unique feature of BELhospice: they have a global approach by which they not only take care of the pain which needs to be taken away with palliative care, they also take care of the psychology 54 Leo D‘aes - Belgian Ambassador in Serbia and Barbara Dietrich © Dieter Paternoster, Living Tomorrow

Leo D‘aes - Belgian Ambassador in Serbia © Dieter Paternoster, Living Tomorrow of knowing that you are dying and also of the helplessness of the family who all of a sudden learn that ‘my mother, my father, my brother, my sister’ will live for only six weeks or months or one year more. That approach (caring for the patients and their family) has the active support of the UK ‘Hospices of Hope’, which has already established a major Hospice in Romania, where I served as ambassador in 2008-2011. I was active then in another initiative, together with my wife, helping to establish a school inside a children’s hospital, working with an Irish NGO, with a sister Miriam, and with Belgians from Ghent. Also in Belgrade, it is a joint effort: we act as a team. The ‘Hospices of Hope’ are a team, they work together with the BELhospice team. The Honorary Patrons Committee which I chair is a team of 14 people, doing this together. How ? How do you maintain a drive, an enthusiasm? You try to reach out to people who not only have sympathy, but also have good will in terms of ‘yes, we want to join in a case in which we believe’. So the importance of the fundraising cannot be underestimated, but not just by organizing lotteries or whatever… It is by going to businesses which believe in this effort. Because some causes are incredible, because they are amateurish, or because they are not standing on a sound financial or managerial basis. BELhospice is now a very sound and well-managed organization that has earned confidence for what it is doing and for how it is going about it. Genuine sympathy is translated into fundraising, from people of goodwill, being business or private persons, and — very importantly — is more and more supported by the authorities. You can be as noble as you want, in the case of such a fundamental problem you need the active support of the authorities. The authorities are very interested in this initiative because they know that it responds to a clear need. But in order to translate the support into practical cooperation, we need to go through a number of legalistic and bureaucratic phases, because we need to legalize the concept of BELhospice into the medical system. To be sure, such bureaucracy is not unique for Serbia, this is a process we have to go through because we are innovating here. Dame Cecile in England, and sister Leontine in Belgium also had to fight their way through. So once we have incorporated the idea of Hospice into the legal system, there is huge potential for active governmental support. Because taking care of patients outside a hospital, which is the case for the moment, that means sending out into the many homes doctors, nurses, social workers, every day, day-in day-out, requires (at the present level) around 250.000 € per year. What is now the aim? The home care is established. The next stage which we will try to reach in summer, which we 55