Palliative care NPO donates food hampers

Coronation Fund Managers Chelsea Smith, right, hands over a food parcel to Paedspal patients parent Louise Arendse and her son, Rayden.

Witnessing the socio-economic knock-on effects the Covid-19 pandemic has had on vulnerable families, a Rondebosch-based palliative care non-profit and its corporate support partner donated food hampers to families in need.

Paedspal, a registered NPO which provides paediatric palliative care services to families in Cape Town free of charge, partnered with Coronation Fund Managers, to provide more than 300
family food hampers to their most vulnerable palliative care patient families.

Coronation donated R100 000 to the initiative and each food parcel was worth about R300
and made up of non-perishable foods.

Outpatients and their guardians collected their hampers when they came in for consultations at Paedspal’s Rondebosch offices, while other patient families had their hampers delivered by a driver.

Paedspal is a public-private partnership programme that provides care and support for children living with life-threatening and life-limiting illnesses in the Western Cape. The name is a play on words with the “pal” signifying both “palliative” and “friend”. Paedspal was founded by Dr Michelle Meiring, a leading paediatric palliative care specialist, who is now also the organisation’s chief executive officer.

“In the overburdened South African medical system, paediatric palliative care – or end of life care – is chronically under-resourced and under-prioritised, and most hospitals do not have palliative care paediatricians. NGOs are closing by the day,” said sustainability manager, Romy Saitowitz.

“This is niche, sophisticated work that enables children with life-limiting conditions to live their last days out in dignity, comfort and with quality of life, free from fear, anxiety and pain. We need funders who grasp the importance of this service, and those are few and far between. Coronation and other funders are playing a vital role in keeping us up and running, and we call on other funders to join us too as the need for our service is heightened now during the pandemic.”

Anton Pillay, CEO of Coronation, said: “Our contribution to Paedspal is in line with our other support initiatives during the Covid-19 pandemic, which all had the same overarching focus: to provide dignity and relief to families who need support during this trying time.”

Ms Saitowitz said palliative care not only benefited the child, but also provided comfort and support to siblings, parents and other loved ones, on an emotional and spiritual level. They provide patients and their siblings with art, music and massage therapy to relieve their stress and anxiety, and social workers are there to support them too.

“Paedspal is like my second home and today I received a food parcel that I’m very thankful for, because I have two other children at home and my only income is All Pay. That the donors thought of my other needs is just wonderful and I’m grateful,” said Louise Arendse, mother of one of Paedspal’s patients.

Paedspal operates an outpatient clinic for disadvantaged families around Cape Town and has a permanent palliative care team based at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, staffed by doctors, nurses, therapists and social workers. Additionally, Paedspal offers an outreach programme bringing its services to nine other hospitals and children’s homes in Cape Town, including Brooklyn Medical Chest, St Joseph’s Home, Groote Schuur, New Somerset and Victoria hospitals, as well as medical facilities in Mitchell’s Plain
and Khayelitsha, and home-based visits to patients living as far as Atlantis.

Ms Saitowitz said Covid-19 had had a devastating emotional effect on their existing patients and their families, as they had been unable to rely on their social networks such as family or church for support, and many families had lost their incomes.

“In a home where there is a sick child, one parent often has to stop working to care for the child, and now many of the breadwinners no longer have an income. Many families are really struggling. Our social workers get inundated with practical requests, for instance, the other day a family could not give their child oxygen at home because they had run out of electricity, and many are in need of food. With the help of donors, we try to provide for those needs.”

Paedspal and Coronation will be providing food parcels to the families in the programme for a period of three months.