Sue, my wife and I were chatting around a drink in a fashionable watering hole in Holborn and we learned that apart from bringing up two children, she worked for a charity in Johannesburg. What immediately interested me was that it is run by a score of ladies married to doctors, lawyers, bankers and, not only do they not take any salary from the charity, they do all the work themselves, so don't employ staff. In addition to this, they pay most of their expenses out of their own (or their husband's pockets). Here is a charity where all donations go direct to the “sharp end”! This intrigues me as it was at a time when I was researching all the huge salaries directors, of all the major British charities, were earning.
Many people think I am callous when I refuse to donate money to these huge conglomerates calling themselves charities. But I am not mean as I regularly send money to BHCC. I am perfectly happy to help people who cannot help themselves but am extremely uncomfortable paying for petrol to go into a director's Rolls Royce or Bentley.
Here's a little about the BHCC organisation:
BHCC stands for the “Baragwanath Hospital Comforts Committee”
Their opening statement on their website reads:
Patients at State hospitals and clinics in South Africa are typically destitute, malnourished, as well as being very sick or injured. Many are jobless, many are homeless, many have no loved-ones to provide the basic needs for them for a hospital stay or for a visit to the clinic.
BHCC strives to provide for the needs of destitute inpatients and outpatients in the Greater Johannesburg area in the following ways.
Hundreds of patients arrive daily at trauma facilities in Johannesburg hospitals. Thousands more are admitted for medical conditions and procedures. The State provides very cheap, or free, medical care. What it can't provide is more than the basic bed and treatment.
Their opening statement on their website reads:Many, involved in serious accident, assaults or abuse, have their clothes cut off so doctors can clean them up and, in may cases, operate. BHCC can then supply them with replacement shoes and clothes collected from kind donors.
Public hospitals are always working on the breadline and can only supply medicines and treatments, not the basic necessities. BHCC then move in with toothpaste and brushes, flannels, deodorants, and sometimes even towels. With over a hundred babies delivered daily with the mothers discharged between four and twelve hours, they often need baby goods and clothes which BHCC supply for the more needy ones. BHCC are often called upon to deliver occupational therapy aids, recovery aids, educational games and activities.We, in Britain, complain about waiting two or three hours for being processed through. Patients in the Baragwanath Hospital may have to leave home at dawn and by the time they are dealt with, it is well into the night. That is a long wait, especially as you can't leave your place in the queue for fear of losing it. BHCC come to the rescue here by supplying packed meals to ensure a full stomach so they can be fed before taking their medicines.
To take a quote direct from their website:
With chronic treatments such as HIV/Aids and Tuberculosis (TB), compliance is key. The promise of a nourishing meal at the clinic encourages adherence to lengthy treatment programmes. Statistics by nutritionists at some of our clinics show that in certain areas, over 50% of registered patients are so malnourished that they are classified as marasmic or kwashiorkor. Many treatments are helped if the patient can be supported nutritionally, which is what we as a charity can help with.
We provide soup, bread, peanut butter and vitamin-enriched fruit juice to patients in the waiting rooms, and where possible, additional nutritional support in the form of immune-boosting porridge to take home. We are being partnered in this mission by Blue Ribbon Bread.
One of the major problems for patients needing to follow chronic treatment plans is compliance. Appearance at a clinic is often as much an economic decision as a health decision. Sporadic attendance can have serious repercussions : and it is not simply a question of recovery periods being set back or prolonged.
Anti-retroviral treatments for HIV positive patients are for the rest of the patient's life. If they don't stick to their treatments, secondary illnesses can develop from AIDs related cancers to tuberculosis. BHCC help the poorer patients with donations from their transport fund to ensure attendance for treatment.
Occasionally BHCC help hospitals to refurbish their more dilapidated wards.
BHCC have now moved on to helping the patients develop self-help through income-generating and occupational therapy projects, including sewing projects, knitting, beading, craft work, gardening projects.
In fact anything which can provide therapy to patients while teaching them skills and producing usable items to sell or to put towards other projects.
For example, a vegetable-growing project provides an input to HIV patient feeding schemes.So, as you can see, these ladies on the committee (Audrey, Cheryl, Colleen, Gloria, Heather, Janet, Kieren, Lynn, Michelle, Myra, Rose, Sheila, Sue & Tara – yes, I also wondered about Kieren but the male version is spelt Kieran) have been doing a pristine job for years and are forever in need of funds. However, funds for their charity are different to funds for British charities. In Britain, if you send a grand to a charity it would immediately get lost in the system and apart from a curt letter of thanks, that's it.
With the BHCC, if you just send £50 you would get a chorus of “bless you” and “heartfelt thanks” Naturally a fiver would also be appreciated. I started with £50 a year and have gravitated to £100 a year. All out of my pension. And, it seems to me that I am one of their largest donors. This is very sad so I am hoping someone a little better off than I am will take the plunge.
Their website is at www.bhcc.org.za – do take a look and if you'd like to know more, my social email address is in the left hand column and I'd be happy to 'chat' to you there.