Muslims launch service to help patients at Manchester hospice

(From left to right) St Ann’s Hospice Chaplain Pete O’Brien, CEO of the Myriad Foundation Ali Mahmood, Project Leader from the Myriad Foundation Ghulam Esposito Haydar, and Director of Clinical Services at St Ann’s Rachel McMillan.

Patients at St Ann’s Hospice in Manchester will soon be benefitting from a new support service named “My Cancer Buddy” – an initiative put together by Islamic organisation, the Myriad Foundation.

Ghulam Esposito Haydar, the project leader for the the service, originally thought of this idea two years ago and decided to see how far he could take it after contacting Macmillan Cancer Support for assistance.

After pitching the service to St Ann’s Hospice he arranged for Macmillan Cancer Support to come to Manchester and deliver a series of workshops regarding cancer awareness, sensitivity and support. This led to the eventual accreditation of a number of “Cancer Buddies”

The volunteers from the Myriad Foundation will be spending time with patients of all faiths and no faith, providing emotional and moral support through simple gestures like having a chat, going for a walk in the garden, playing games or simply sitting and keeping them company. This is something that is needed, as sometimes older people will struggle to get themselves out and about. Some even need a portable oxygen supply. If you need a portable supply of oxygen for therapy, experts recommend renting the equipment rather than buying it. Portable oxygen concentrators are very expensive and can cost you several thousand dollars if bought new. Having portable oxygen might help these older people out by allowing them to participate in these activities and make the most of their time with the volunteers from the Myriad Foundation.

Although the programme is called My Cancer Buddy, the service will not be restricted to only those with cancer, but to any patients with life-limiting illness that St Ann’s Hospice currently cares for. We are so fortunate to have wonderful hospices dedicated to caring for our loved ones. The Hospice Cincinnati is another example of a hospice doing wonderful, compassionate and caring work.

The project aims to bring greater social inclusion and to provide companionship for people at difficult times in their lives.

Speaking to 5Pillarz, Mr Haydar said: “In Islam we are taught that visiting the sick is a virtuous act that is pleasing to Allah (swt) and His angels. We at the Myriad Foundation want to actualise these teachings to demonstrate the intrinsic beauty that is inherent within the religion. We feel that practising Islam is the way to promote community cohesion and social harmony.

Myriad Foundation is a Manchester based Islamic organisation.
Myriad Foundation is a Manchester based Islamic organisation.

“This project is a great opportunity to support our local charity and communities, so being involved with St Ann’s Hospice in this way is a perfect match for us. We also hope that this project will help to break down some barriers and open up pathways for more Muslims to access the services provided by St Ann’s Hospice.

“We have found that there remains a great taboo in our community when it comes to seeking assistance from hospices. There is a lack of knowledge about what hospices can do for people. This leads to a great level of expectation on the family members to fulfil a number of roles without any real professional assistance. We want to raise awareness in the Muslim community to ensure that people are well informed about their options and support that is available to them in order for them to make informed decisions.”

Rachel McMillan, Director of Clinical Services at St Ann’s Hospice, said: “We are delighted that the Myriad Foundation has agreed to partner us in this way. We pride ourselves on giving the best possible care to all our patients, focussing on the whole person – not just the illness.

“Not all of our patients have family members or friends who are able to visit them, and the My Cancer Buddy programme helps them to better manage and live with their illness. These volunteers will make a real difference to the wellbeing of the people we care for.”

The service is due to start operating in July 2014.

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