Zoran Purković, Director, BELhospice, Serbia, explains how the hospice is not just pioneering palliative care – it’s starting a trend for fundraising too.
It is just eight years since BELhospice opened its doors as the first specialised charity in Serbia to provide palliative care for patients with advanced cancer. It was thanks to a group of enthusiasts led by Dr Natasa Milicevic, a consultant specialist in oncology, who had long recognised the need for palliative care in Serbia. Despite the difficulties and hardship in our country following the 1990s, Dr Milicevic never gave up and finally managed to open the centre in Belgrade in 2004. Over the years the project has been supported by the UK charity, Hospices of Hope, led by Graham Perolls.
From the beginning, our mission has been threefold. First, to provide palliative care to terminally ill patients in Serbia in accordance with standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO) and European Council. Second, to develop professional and public education. And finally, to promote the concept of palliative care in Serbia, and encourage the wider community to support our work. In 2004, we started with just one doctor and a nurse offering very limited support to a small number of patients. Significant expansion happened in 2011/2012 and the team now consists of two doctors, three nurses, a social worker, psychologists, a spiritual coordinator and a group of 20 volunteers. So finally we have a full multidisciplinary team to take care of patients and their families. Our team visits patients in their own homes and in hospital in Belgrade.
Fundraising – a new concept
All the services we provide are free of charge to our patients and their families and therefore fundraising remains a key part of our activity. Most of the NGOs (non-governmental organisations) in Serbia are financed through sporadic donations from abroad, and regular financing from fundraising is a relatively new concept in our country. BELhospice is probably the only charity in Serbia that is financed almost entirely by fundraising.
So how do we do it?
Our key event is a charity dinner/ball that we organise every autumn. This year was particularly successful with more than 180 guests. Among them were 12 ambassadors, a minister of health and even a princess. The guests were entertained in the recently refurbished and reopened Hotel Metropol in Belgrade. The hotel is famous, as it has entertained many celebrity guests in the past such as Queen Elizabeth II, Liz Taylor, Alfred Hitchcock, Richard Burton, Robert De Niro, Che Guevara and others… So we named the event ‘A Night with the Stars’. Most of the funds were raised through ticket sales and an auction.
The other important event for us is a football tournament that is held every June in the Sports Centre Kovilovo near Belgrade. Here, the focus is on the corporate sector with up to 16 teams participating. Among others the regular participants are Coca Cola, Crédit Agricole, Adecco, KPMG, UniCredit Bank and Roche. All the parties involved benefit. The companies get team building, build their CSR (corporate social responsibility) reputation and gain publicity. The sports centre gives us the facility for free but benefits from food and drinks sales. And, most important of all, BELhospice raises the necessary funds for our work by getting tournament participation fees from all the companies.
We also organise several other events including the Belgrade Marathon, a bowling tournament and concerts. Depending on funds our aim is to extend the service to other towns and cities in the country. Our ultimate goal would be to build the first inpatient hospice in Serbia and we hope to achieve this in the near future.
Follow the blog on Friday when Pam Firth, co-chair of the EAPC Task Force on Palliative Care Social Work, explains how a multidisciplinary team is developing an education programme to embed palliative care in the health and social care systems in Serbia.