News / Asia

    Pakistan's Christian Hospice to Close After 50 Years

    Christian Hospice in Pakistan Facing Closurei
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    November 29, 2013 9:30 PM
    Sharon Behn reports that the hospice that caters mainly to Muslim patients is now being forced to close because of falling donations and rising costs.
    VIDEO: Rawalpindi's Christian hospice, which caters mainly to Muslim patients, is being forced to close because of falling donations and rising costs. VOA's Sharon Behn has more.
    In the crowded, winding streets of the Rawalpindi, a small Christian hospice led by Irish nuns has taken care of the destitute and disabled for 50 years.

    But the hospice that caters mainly to Muslim patients is now being forced to close because of falling donations and rising costs.

    FILE - Pakistani men are pictured during visit of Spanish Defence Minister Jose Bono at St. Joseph's Hospice in Rawalpindi.FILE - Pakistani men are pictured during visit of Spanish Defence Minister Jose Bono at St. Joseph's Hospice in Rawalpindi.
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    FILE - Pakistani men are pictured during visit of Spanish Defence Minister Jose Bono at St. Joseph's Hospice in Rawalpindi.
    FILE - Pakistani men are pictured during visit of Spanish Defence Minister Jose Bono at St. Joseph's Hospice in Rawalpindi.
    For Aisha Gulrehman, the hospice has been her home for 10 years.

    After being hit by a bullet outside her home in Pakistan's poor northwest at age 12, she has battled with cerebral palsy.
     
    “When I first came here, I couldn't do anything, now I can eat by myself and I can write," she says. "Everybody here loves me and takes care of me. I wasn't looked after like this in my own home."
     
    Like Aisha, all 40 patients here are destitute. Some of the paraplegics and quadraplegics have been abandoned.
     
    Sister Margaret Walsh and a team of Pakistani and international volunteers have been trying to keep St. Joseph's running.

    But after 50 years, donations are drying up, and bookkeeper Naveed Inderyas says fuel, electricity and medical costs are rising.

    “According to our bank balances, we can survive only for the five months," he says.
     
    Although the hospice cares for people of all religions, many think that, as a Christian institution, its own faith community should be responsible to raise the money. But sectarian violence has pushed many of Pakistan's wealthier Christians to depart, leaving few donors.
     
    While there are many charitable organizations in Pakistan, St. Joseph's is unique, says Dr. Munawar Sher Khan, a Muslim who has been involved with the hospice for 40 years.
     
    "It gives a unique service," she says. "There is no place to the best of my knowledge that helps the disabled, the chronically ill, they are rejected from other hospitals, they can't afford to go to hospitals, they can't afford expensive treatments."

    Abler patients are encouraged to stay active.
     
    Mohammed Sohail was a young man when he dove into a lake and cracked his head on a rock, paralyzing him from the neck down.

    "These people, especially hospice, they know what to do with me," he says. "Dressings, food — a lot of other things, special needs for patients they provide us — and slowly, slowly, starting that day, I did move my neck, my hand, my finger, and now I am like a big man."
     
    But without donated funds, such success stories could becpome a thing of the past.

    While Sister Walsh says she will fight to keep the hospice open, as closing seems too painful an option. Dr. Munawar says she cannot believe that the prospect of closure is one they need to confront.
     
    "I love the hospice, and I just can't bear the thought of it closing," she says. "For what? Why are we closing? Insufficient funds? People don't care anymore? I care. That's it."

    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Sara from: Islamabad
    December 06, 2013 1:34 AM
    Everyone- this is the website: http://www.stjosephshospice.com.pk/aboutus.php#leadership. Donation details are also set out here

    by: Sara from: Islamabad
    December 05, 2013 12:36 AM
    It would be helpful if there was a bank account number and branch. If the admin can get that going people would be very willing to help.

    by: Farhad Durrani from: Islamabad
    December 04, 2013 11:37 AM
    How much money do they require to remain open?

    by: Ejaz U Haq from: Michigan, USA
    December 03, 2013 9:38 AM
    I am extremely sorry to see this Hospice close. This was started by Father Francis O'Leary in the early sixties and I and my class mates helped him rIse money for the project. It was his dream and he singlehanded and with great passion pursued it. We 'pindiites had never heard of a hospice and did not know the difference between a hospice and a hospital, but once Father O'Leary explained the concept we all Christian and Muslim alike pitched in to raise money for the project. It is a pity this institution has fallen on hard times. I suppose it is indicative of the conditions in Pakistan today. May Father O'Leary's soul rest in heaven and in peace.

    by: Rachel from: Rawalpindi
    December 03, 2013 6:37 AM
    St. Joseph's Hospice is the right place to make donation. I have known about the great work this place has been doing since I visited this hospice when I was in School as a child.I request all people to please put in your share to help St. Joseph's Hospice come out of its bad times and to carry out the good work we cannot do alone. Thanks

    by: Sam
    December 02, 2013 9:26 PM
    How can we help? Is there a website?

    by: naela from: lahore
    December 02, 2013 12:10 PM
    Kindly guide us how contributions can be made to this institute? friends want to donate but are asking how?

    by: mandresy from: france
    December 02, 2013 7:21 AM
    hello,

    it is so sad to hear it .Nowadays , closure hospital only because it in not muslim institution is so several.Christian people is better ;they practice what Jesus have explained .Curing all poeple who represents jesus's face.
    I pray for pakistan christian and all citizens for peace

    by: Clara Pasha from: Islamabad
    November 30, 2013 11:18 AM
    For the past 50 years the hospice has been involved in providing medical/old age care to many people who cannot afford to pay, or have been abandoned by their families. I personally have been involved since 1987 in raising funds, sending the post graduate nurses for their clinical practice to this very institute and getting some poor people admitted for treatment as well. It makes me very sad to hear this news.

    Let all the generous people of Rawalpindi/ Islamabad be of assistance to this charity hospice as it provides service to the needy members of our community. It is an appeal and I sincerely hope that it is heard.

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