Hospices of Hope is a UK and US based charity which supports and promotes the development of hospice care in South East Europe.
It was founded by Graham Perolls in 1991. From very small beginnings, the charity has developed into the largest hospice/palliative care network in South East Europe.
Graham’s journey, and that of Hospices of Hope, started with a visit to a cancer ward in Brasov, Romania. That visit was the first step in developing an organisation that has helped thousands of patients and their family members.
Graham’s story – the start of the Journey
“In 1980 my father died from cancer at St Christopher’s Hospice in London. The amazing care he received there inspired me to set up the Ellenor Hospice charity in my home town of Dartford.
Five years previously in 1975, I had visited Romania as a tourist and a chance encounter with a young Romanian couple in the medieval city of Brasov led to a lasting friendship and a deep interest in the country and its people.
I visited Romania several times during the communist period and again a few days after the “revolution” in the closing days of 1989.”
A seed was sown
At the time there were heart-breaking images on TV and in the press of the abandoned children in state orphanages and the horrendous conditions in other state institutions. But nothing could have prepared me for the reality – seeing the situation for myself was simply shocking.
I asked my friends to take me to the cancer hospital in Brasov. The consultant in charge took me to see a young man who was dying in terrible pain.
Seeing him planted a seed in my mind. It made me think that perhaps I could use my experience setting up the Ellenor Hospice to do something to help.
I discovered that care for terminally ill patients in Romania was non-existent. They were simply sent home to die without pain relief or emotional, spiritual or psychological support. Their families had to cope as best they could and this led to unimaginable suffering.
In 1991, the trustees of the Ellenor Hospice agreed to me raising funds for Romania. One of the Ellenor nurses offered to go out and live in Brasov for two years to train our first Romanian nurse.
We launched the first Romanian hospice charity for adults and children
Things moved quickly from then on. 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.
We then registered the first Romanian hospice charity, called Hospice Casa Sperantei (Home of Hope), and employed the first nurse and part-time doctor.
This small team, supplemented by UK volunteers, visited patients in their own homes in Brasov. Patients and families were astonished that someone was there to help them and was doing so free of charge.
Over time, the number of patients grew and more medical staff were employed, including a paediatrician and children’s nurse. This meant that, for the first time, families with terminally ill children had some sort of support.
Hospice Casa Sperantei has been our main Romanian country partner from the start but in 2011 we added Hospice Emanuel, Oradea, as a second Romanian partner in order to support an organisation that has coverage in the northern part of the country. Hospice Emanuel provides home care services for adults and children and are planning to build a day centre and in-patient unit.
Over time, the number of patients grew and more medical staff were employed, including a paediatrician and children’s nurse.
For the first 5 years we focussed on caring for patients in their own homes.
Education and Training
We always recognised the importance of education and training. By training medical professionals in end of life care we knew we could improve the quality of life for so many more people.
To achieve this we opened the Princess Diana Education Centre in Brasov in 1997. The Centre was named after the Princess in recognition of her support for our work. It is a residential training facility for medical professionals and its training courses are internationally recognised. Since it was opened with our support our partner has trained thousands of medical professionals from more than 23 different countries.
The first in-patient teaching hospice in Romania
1998 brought another breakthrough. Brasov Council donated a plot of land for the first in-patient teaching hospice in Romania and £1 million was raised in the UK to build it. The hospice has beds for both adults and children and is recognised as a Centre of Excellence. The hospice includes our Bagpuss Children’s Wing.
As a result of increasing support from donors in the United States, we established a fundraising office in New York in 2000.
Support extended to Bucharest and neighbouring countries
In 2001, the Open Society Institute in New York commissioned a research project which looked into the provision of hospice care in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The report’s researchers from the University of Sheffield identified Hospice Casa Sperantei as a “Palliative Care Beacon” in South-Eastern Europe and recommended that it should “develop its regional role in the Balkans”.
This recommendation led to the next stage of the journey – developing hospice services across Romania (particularly in Bucharest the capital) and using our expertise to develop and promote hospice services in other countries in the region by creating an international network.
To achieve this, we launched the “Beacon Appeal” in 2003, which raised more than £1.25 million.
As a result of this appeal we:
■ Opened the Nicholas Edeleanu Training and Resource Institute in Bucharest
■ Funded a home care service in Bucharest
■ Pioneered two mobile services based in Fagaras and Zarnesti which brought much needed care to patients in two very poor rural areas of Romania
■ Established a partnership in 2006 with a new hospice charity in Serbia – BELhospice
■ Started working in the Republic of Moldova in 2008
First hospice in Bucharest
Following a 6 year funding campaign, a long-standing dream was realised with the opening of the first in-patient teaching hospice in Bucharest. The Duchess of Norfolk and HIRH Dominic Habsburg cut the ribbon to ‘officially’ open the hospice on September 19th 2014.
In 2017, His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, visited the Bucharest Hospice as part of Hospice Casa Sperantei’s 25th anniversary celebrations.
Supporting a new service for childeren
In 2018 Hospice Casa Sperantei officially opened Adunatii Copaceni, a socio-medical centre located in the countryside just 20km from Bucharest. The centre is unique in Romania and provides services for children and families affected by rare or life-limiting illness such as cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy. The day care and therapy units began operating in 2019 and in 2021, we added a residential respite service for children and family members.
Our annual series of summer trips in Romania began as far back 2002 to provide respite and fun for some of our child patients and children who have suffered bereavement or have a family member cared for by the hospice. Most of the camps are now held at Adunatii Copaceni.
We started shipping donated medical supplies to Romania in the nineties and now also send these supplies to Moldova and Albania.
The Hospices of Hope Network – extending into new countries
Following the success of the Beacon Appeal we extended our work into other countries and established the Hospices of Hope Network.
BELhospice in Belgrade, Serbia became our country partner in 2006.
Serbia has the highest cancer mortality rate in Europe but Belhospice, is still the only NGO in Serbia offering free of charge specialist palliative care.
BELhospice offers home-care services in Belgrade. In 2018 the first hospice care centre was opened and a palliative day-care service was added – the first in the country.
Our long term aim is to facilitate the opening of an in-patient unit in Belgrade.
The Hospices of Hope Network
Moldova is by far the poorest country in Europe. Many patients have to cope with dreadful living conditions as well as dealing with their illness.
We began in 2008 by supporting a home-care service in the capital, Chisinau. In 2017 we started supporting a number of small hospice organisations in more rural locations to ensure services reach people outside the capital, where there is the most poverty. Our intervention has greatly increased the sustainability of these organisations. We are planning to open a palliative day-care centre in Chisinau.
In 2018, we were invited to support the fledgling hospice movement in Albania. We started by working with an existing hospice organisation, Ryder Albania, in the capital Tirana and second city Durres and added the ABC foundation in Tirana and Mary Potter Hospice in Korce.
Palliative care is not yet officially recognised in Greece. We are starting to support two small teams in Athens. Merimna (which in Greek means ‘Care’) – which provides paediatric palliative care home services to children and adolescents who live a life-threatening illness and Nosilia, which provides palliative care for adults. Both these services are based in Athens and are provided free of charge. They rely solely on donations from individuals, companies and foundations, as there is no governmental reimbursement or financial support of any kind. Unfortunately, due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, financial support has drastically decreased.
Following the start of the Russia/Ukraine war in spring 2022, we began supporting Ukrainian refugees through our network in Romania and Moldova. Hospice Casa Sperantei at the children’s centre in Adunatii Copaceni provided temporary accommodation, medical care and has admitted those in need of palliative care to the Bucharest hospice.
We have since made a formal partnership with the Regional Palliative Care Centre Ivano-Frankivsk in Western Ukraine. Some of the senior staff were trained at Hospice Casa Sperantei Brasov prior to the war, so we already had a good relationship with them.
We aim to support them through ongoing funding and development. Once the conflict is resolved, we know the aftermath will be vast and support and assistance will be crucial.
Inspired to carry on
Country partners have facilitated care for more than 70,000 patients and palliative care training for thousands of health care professionals from all over Central and Eastern Europe. For me personally it has been a very rewarding journey
When I first visited Romania in the 1970’s I did not imagine that this region would become my second home! There have been many obstacles to overcome along the way, but with God’s help and the generosity of so many amazing supporters, so much progress has been achieved. There are now 120 organisations in Romania providing end of life care and we are helping the government to devise a national strategy.
I wish I could say that there is now no need for the involvement of Hospices of Hope. But sadly, despite the progress made, there are still huge gaps in the provision of services across the region.
In Romania, Hospice Casa Sperantei is still the only charity which provides the complete range of hospice services for adults and children (in-patient, out-patient, day care and home care). And still only one in eleven terminally ill patients in Romania has access to specialist palliative care. In the other countries within the Hospices of Hope Network the situation is much worse.
Over the years, we have been blessed with 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 great adversity that gives us all the inspiration to continue the journey.”
Graham Perolls, CMG, OBE
In Romania, Hospice Casa Sperantei is still the only charity which provides the complete range of hospice services for adults and children (in-patient, out-patient, day care and home care).
Your donation can make a real difference
Your money goes much further in the countries where we work.
could cover a week’s worth of meals for a patient in a day centre.
could cover a home care visit to a patient.
could pay for one child’s medication for two months.
could cover the cost of a nurse for a week.
could cover a doctor’s salary for a month.
Could cover a physiotherapist’s salary for a year.