Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thanks and Appreciation

In a short amount of time hospice staff and volunteers, family and friends, and our larger community have compassionately given from their hearts. We have 7 suitcases full of much needed medical supplies with many more supplies waiting to be sent during future trips.

We have shared how our sister hospice struggles financially to pay staff salaries and other needed expenses in order to provide the excellent care they do on a daily basis. I am so proud to share that that in the last few months all of you, staff, volunteers, family, friends, and our community have contributed over $9,500! Every day more money continues to come in via mail and our website.

The need is great. Please continue to share this website with your family and friends. Together, all of us, can truly make a difference.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Less Than A Week, And We're Packing...

With less than a week to go before the Team boards their plane from Florida to J0-burg, Steve Lasky is seen packing some of the thousands of dollars of donated medical supplies that will be carried by the team members as checked luggage.

In addition to these much needed supplies,the team will also be bringing a check representing the contributions of friends, family and co-workers. These funds will directly support the important work  of the Soweto Hospice. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Try to imagine...

Dear Friends,

Imagine caring for an extremely ill patient who has full-blown AIDS and will die within the next few weeks. His wife, two of his children and other immediate family members already have died of AIDS. When he dies, his mother will be left to care for his remaining three children, two of whom are HIV positive. Countless other patients you’ve cared for also have died of this devastating disease within the month.

You live in Soweto, South Africa, where more than 1,300 people die each week, overwhelmingly from HIV/AIDS. The number is so staggering that I have to say it again – more than 1,300 people die each week in this poverty and HIV/AIDS-stricken region of the world.

You are a hospice nurse, or sister as called in South Africa, at The Hospice Association of the Witwatersrand. You rely on your hospice to provide a vehicle and gas so that you can drive to visit your patients. You’ve already been held up at gunpoint once and had a previous vehicle stolen. You are frequently threatened in some neighborhoods. You must be especially careful when transporting medications.

Or you could be a cook who serves warm meals daily to the adult day care patients. You know these patients, all of whom are HIV positive. You know they rely on the food you so lovingly prepare for them. It is often the only hot meal they get that day. It’s not unusual for you to slip a little extra food on the tray when a mother is in the unit visiting her child.

You also may be one of the other workers who keep the Soweto hospice running such as a community care worker (home health aide), social worker or administrator. Even through the dire economic times and violent unrest, somehow you get up, go to work and make sure the community is well taken care of.

Staffers from our hospice, The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, have seen this mission in action during the exchange trips to our sister hospice. And they’ve seen the humanity of those who are overworked and underpaid, caring for a multitude of patients and families including the orphans left behind, because it is the right thing to do.

This year will be my second trip to our sister hospice as part of The Hospice African Exchange trip. I will lead six others on our 8,900-mile journey and two-week stay – an emotional and life-changing experience indeed. I’ve had the privilege of witnessing and learning from the workers, whose caseloads are many and hearts are ablaze. There are so many stories to tell of lessons learned, tears shed and laughter exchanged.

Sadly, our sister hospice is struggling to make ends meet and continue the care that the community so desperately needs. And, so, we are asking you – our fellow hospice communities – to reach out and support our sister hospice. Your dollars will go so far there, helping to pay for numerous medications, food and clothing for their patients and workers’ salaries.

Please consider making a donation on our blog site at On behalf of previous exchange groups, this year’s group and everyone who supports our partnership, we thank you greatly for your support in helping our sister hospice to continue its care mission.


Stacy Orloff

Monday, April 20, 2009

What a team!

We have such a great team of professionals making this trip. Each person comes with a specific expertise that will be shared with the Soweto Hospice staff. We, in turn, expect to learn many things from them. We're told by previous travellers that the Soweto clinical staff are exceptional in their ability to serve patients even though they lack the basic supplies that we take for granted. It makes me feel great to know that when we arrive we will be bringing suitcases full of basic medical supplies that will make their jobs easier and will bring comfort to their patients.

Today I went out and bought a 2lb. bag of Dumdums (remember those?) for the children. When I look at the faces of those children on the home page of this website, I know that I can do more.

Thank you so much, family and friends who contributed to this trip in dollars and hugs. Your love and support are deeply felt.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

13 days and counting...

The trip is getting closer and closer. All of our supply suitcases have been packed. We have seven suitcases filled to the brim (and weighing very close to the maximum weight allowed) with medical supplies, over the counter vitamins, blankets, and stuffed animals for the children. Our South African colleagues have put together an ambitious schedule for us. We'll be visiting with hospice patients and their families, conducting some trainings for the hospice staff, and visiting different cultural and historical sites to learn more about the South African culture.

Follow us on a daily basis by reading our blogs, watching our videos, and viewing our pictures. And, more importantly, if your heart so moves you (and how can it not) click on the link to donate now. Every US dollar makes a huge difference in Soweto.

Thank you!


Friday, April 17, 2009

We're getting ready

Pat’s Pals are going to Africa

Our exchange group is revving up for next month’s trip to Soweto, South Africa. We are getting things in order and stuffing our bags with some much needed resources there – medications and medical supplies and costume jewelry to be sold at their thrift stores –along with some soft and lovable dolls that are sure to bring smiles to the children of Soweto.

Pat’s Pals, a unique collection of colorful yarn dolls, are the creations of Pat Sargent, a registered nurse of Suncoast Hospice who comes from a long line of knitters in her family. Her husband helps cut the dolls’ hair. They work on them after dinner at home. Each one takes four evenings to make. The couple has given them to family members for many years. Now they will be shared many, many miles away.

Please stay tuned to our blog at for the latest stories, thoughts, photos and videos posted by our group during the trip. It’s sure to be amazing, so don’t miss all the action. 

Meet Our Team

Amy Post-Grady
Amy is an Internal Medicine physician, board certified in Hospice and Palliative Medicine. She has worked in hospice as an Associate Medical Director for the past five years. She came to the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast one and a half years ago. Prior to her work with hospice, Amy cared for HIV/AIDS patients and became a certified HIV physician specialist. She has had the opportunity to participate in medical care in Malawi and Kenya, Africa in the past. Amy finds it highly rewarding to care for the very sick and those that have poor access to healthcare. During our upcoming trip to South Africa, she hopes to assist with project development, patient care, teaching and securing medications for South African patients through fund raising and collaboration with the Soweto hospice pharmacy.

Stacy Orloff
Dr. Stacy Orloff is the Vice President of Palliative Care and Community Programs at the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast. She has been employed by The Hospice for over eighteen years. Stacy is active nationally in several end of life care projects and initiatives and is also published in peer review books and journals. This is her second trip to South Africa and to our sister hospice. She says, “The people I met in South Africa have become part of me, their stories my story. It is more than my privilege to share these stories; it is my obligation and responsibility.”

Roxie Smith
Roxie Smith has been involved in the African Hospice effort for more than seven years. Prior to retirement in 2008, she was employed as The Hospice’s grants manager and worked closely with the Soweto staff in applying for grants to U.S. foundations. In 2008, she co-chaired The Hospice’s first major fundraiser for Soweto, A Taste of Good Hope. As a team member in 2009, she expects to become a more effective advocate for Soweto through writing and public speaking.

Lea Ann Horton
Lea Ann Horton is that rare species – a native Floridian born and raised in St. Petersburg, Florida. She wanted to be a nurse since childhood and achieved that dream in 1993 working in various capacities as an RN. For the past eleven years she has been privileged to be employed by Hospice of the Florida Suncoast. She became aware of our sister hospice in Soweto, South Africa after becoming an active member in the Soweto Support and Fundraising Committee and is eager and committed to experience Soweto in person by participating in this year’s staff exchange. After she returns, she is hoping her enhanced passion for this cause will help her to persuade others to join the endeavor by spreading the word to groups and individuals whenever possible. She has tried to live her life since a teenager by following this quote: “Being a success is knowing one life breathed easier because you were born.”

Laura Mosby
Laura Mosby, LCSW, is the Director of Organizational Integrity. She has been affiliated with Hospice over 16 years and recently joined The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast. She is a Clinical Social Worker with experience in developing and administration of Children’s Programs and Community Outreach Programs as well as Clinical Hospice Programs. Currently, her role is focused on Organizational Quality and Compliance.

Laura will work with the Soweto team on Leadership Development and Quality and Process Improvement Initiatives as well as collaborating with the Social Workers and Children’s Programs.

Laura sees the value venturing out of her “comfort zone”. She believes that by engaging another community or culture we learn more about ourselves. “I’m looking forward to this experience”, said Laura.

Stephen Lasky
Stephen Lasky, a producer of film and video projects for advertising and television, has supported the Suncoast Hospice for many years. As a member of the 2009 Exchange Team, Stephen will be teaming up with his wife, Cathy, to provide content for a daily web log that will chronicle the team’s activities, and allow viewers to witness both the challenges facing the people of Soweto and solutions offered by the Soweto Hospice.

Cathy Lasky
Cathy is the senior graphic artist and digital content producer at The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast. She has been involved with events promoting the Soweto Hospice since 2000. The trip to Soweto this year is an opportunity for Cathy to use her photography and video production skills to put a face with the AIDS statistics and to meet and learn from the people affected by this pandemic. It is Cathy’s hope that she will effectively communicate to anyone who wants to follow along on this journey, an accurate portrayal of the people of Soweto and their lives.

The Need - You Can Help

The Soweto Hospice provides much needed food parcels and Inpatient beds for adults and children, and adult and child daycare. Your donation will go directly to improve the conditions of the people in Soweto.

South African Costs in US Dollars
  • Doctor -------------------------- US $ 1,494. per month
  • Professional Nurse -------------- US $ 982. per month
  • Auxiliary Nurse ----------------- US$ 370. per month
  • Community Care Worker --------US $ 135. per month
  • Cook ---------------------------- US $ 211. per month
  • Social Worker ------------------- US $ 498. per month
  • Vehicle for the Home Visits ------ US $ 588. per month
  • Cost of inpatient Bed ------------ US $ 36. per day
  • Medication for one patient ------ US$ 9. per month
  • Home care ---------------------- US$ 4. per visit
  • Day Care Center (HIV+ children) US $ 2.50/day/child
  • Food parcels --------------------- US $ 6. feeds 4 people/1 wk

Currency Converter

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The Statistics

Sub-Saharan Africa, 2008

• 27.7 million adults and children living with HIV (63% of the world’s infected)

• 2.8 million new infections (65% of total globally)

• Almost _ (72%) of all adult and child deaths due to AIDS in 2006 occurred in sub-Saharan Africa.

• Women (age 15+) account for 59% of HIV cases.

• For every 10 adult men living with HIV, there are about 14 women.

Southern Africa, 2008
• 32% of all people with HIV globally live in southern Africa. In 2008, 34% of all deaths due to AIDS, occurred in southern Africa.

• Most children living with HIV/AIDS are in sub-Saharan Africa (2.1 million, or 91% of the global total as of the end of 2008).

• Most children orphaned by AIDS are also in sub-Saharan Africa(12 million or 79% of the global total as of the end of 2008

Everyone Can Care 4 Soweto

Care 4 Soweto provides a way for everyone to be connected with the work of the Soweto Hospice and to continue the compassion at work through their donations.

Soweto’s Need Is Great

With over 1300 deaths due to HIV/AIDS every week, the entire community is devastated. The economy is in shambles. The number of orphaned children is enormous. There is no government support for hospice services. This is why Care 4 Soweto is so important. In addition to raising much needed funds for the work of the Soweto Hospice.

The Soweto Hospice cares for 700 patients per day in their homes and in the hospice inpatient unit. Unlike US hospices, the Soweto Hospice is challenged by more than just providing excellent home care to patients.

Soweto Hospice staff also provides orphan care as thousands of children in Soweto are AIDS orphans, many of them infected themselves. The hospice runs a child day care center where more than 150 children who are infected with HIV/AIDS or orphaned by AIDS can come and receive meals, education, spiritual support and physical care. More than 70% of the children in day care are receiving anti-retrovirals for their own AIDS infection.

Soweto Hospice also provides adult day care centers where 30 to 40 patients per day come for a hot meal, socialization, medical and spiritual support.

Since poverty is such an issue in Soweto…more than 60% are unemployed…Soweto Hospice staff provide medical supplies, pain medication and food parcels as they visit families living in shanty towns with no electricity or plumbing.

In 2007, Soweto Hospice opened a 24 bed inpatient unit that houses 16 adults and 8 pediatric children who are too sick to remain at home.

Amidst the challenges of poverty, homelessness, hunger, joblessness, crime and the eradication of two generations of South African blacks, the Soweto Hospice stands as a beacon of hope to those suffering with AIDS and cancer in Soweto. It is the mission of the South African hospice committee at The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, to stand beside our “sister” hospice and to provide whatever we can to lessen their load.

In 2009, a group of volunteers from The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, will self-fund their trip, and journey to South Africa to spend 2 weeks with our partner hospice once again.

Compassion Is Not A Local Phenomenon.

Founded by a dedicated group of enlightened health services professionals and concerned community, Suncoast Hospice has provided care for those nearing the end of life and their families since 1977, regardless of race, creed, diagnosis or ability to pay.
As the leading community based, not-for-profit hospice nationwide, it’s not surprising that Suncoast Hospice would look beyond the borders of its sun-drenched corner of the U.S., see a need, offer help, support, and yes, compassion. The township of Soweto, South Africa came clearly into focus.

Meanwhile, in Soweto, South Africa’s largest township, the Hospice of the Witwatersrand, struggled, mired in tremendous need. About 500,000 South Africans have already died from AIDS-related causes. Projections based on the current rate of HIV prevalence suggest that as many as 10 million may succumb over the next 15 years.

Partners in Compassion
The Soweto Hospice was established with the help and support of organizations like The Foundation for Hospices in Sub-Saharan Africa, (FHSSA), USAID, Witwatersrand Hospice, and those in the local community of Johannesburg. Suncoast Hospice through the Suncoast Hospice Foundation also made a commitment to provide assistance and support to its “sister” organization.

The goals of the partnership are:
• sharing of information
technical assistance to the Soweto Hospice
promotion of staff exchanges
monetary support
raising awareness of the accomplishments and needs of the Soweto Hospice.

Staff of Suncoast Hospice has organized and handled this effort as volunteers, with fundraising projects supported by the Suncoast Hospice Foundation.

Accomplishments of the partnership include:

• Staff exchanges every other year since 2000 with 7 South African staff visiting the US and 11 Suncoast staff visiting the Soweto Hospice. Staff exchanges include touring, observing, teaching and working one on one with hospice staff and patients.
• Suncoast Hospice has raised more than $100,000 in grants and donations for Soweto Hospice. Note – Only donations designated to go toward aid to Soweto are sent on to South Africa.
• More than 1,500 pounds of medical supplies have been taken or shipped to Soweto for patient care.
• Professional education manuals, DVDs, journals, equipment, books and videos have been provided to Soweto Hospice for staff and volunteer education.