RAWALPINDI: Saint Joseph’s Hospice serving since 50 years is now being forced to close on account of deficiency, of funds and rising expenses.
Located in the West ridge area of Rawalpindi; a crammed full area with winding streets, this petite Christian hospice run by Irish nuns has served of the impoverished and disabled for 50 years now. What’s distressing is that the hospice that caters mostly to Muslim patients is at present being obliged to shut as a result of decreasing donations and increasing expenses.
For Aysha Gulrehman; the hospice has been her home for 10 years. At the age of 12 she was hit by a bullet outside her home in northwest of Pakistan she has been battling 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.”
There are 40 patients in the hospice similar to Aysha, who are insolvent. Some of the paraplegics and quadriplegics have been cast off. Sister Margaret Walsh along with a group of local and international volunteers have been striving to maintain St. Joseph’s service. Nevertheless 50 years have gone by; donations are diminishing while Naveed Inderyas a bookkeeper by profession says:”Fuel, electricity and medical costs are rising. According to our bank balances, we can survive only for the five months.”
Even though, the hospice looks after people of all religions; majority holds the view that: “As a Christian institution, its own faith community should be responsible to raise the money.” However sectarian hostility has distanced majority of Pakistan’s better off Christians thus lessening donations.
Dr. Munawar Sher Khan says:” While there are many charitable organizations in Pakistan, St. Joseph’s is unique.” “It gives a unique service,” she added. “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, and they can’t afford expensive treatments.”
Another occupant of the hospice, Mohammed Sohail who dove into a lake and cracked his head on a rock in his youth: thus paralyzed 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,” he continued.
Sister Walsh determined to keep the hospice running says:”I will fight to keep the hospice open, as closing seems too painful an option. 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.”