It was a bittersweet moment for all. Bitter, because the wind-down of any organization impacts friendships, relationships and mission; sweet because there is so much that the Fund accomplished to be celebrated. The Fund has been a key supporter of palliative care in Africa and was instrumental in supporting and strengthening the African Palliative Care Association and other palliative care and hospice organizations in Africa through the past decade and a half.
The Fund, through the generous donations of thousands who wished to honour the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, was able to make its first grants in support of the causes important to Diana in 1998. Since then the Fund has supported 158 grants for palliative care in Africa totalling nearly £12,000,000. This largesse has had a massive impact and representatives of many of the African organizations that received grants were at Kensington Palace to show their appreciation and honour the memory of Princess Diana and the work of the Fund, its donors, staff and leadership. Voices leading the palliative care movement from Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia and more were raised in thanks and appreciation to all, especially Olivia Dix and her staff, who did so much to advance the cause of compassion and dignity in the face of life-threatening illness on the African continent.
Lady Sarah McCorquodale, the elder sister of the late Princess and President of the Fund spoke eloquently of the work of the Fund and the passion of her late sister for its causes. It became clear over time that the Fund, by leveraging its name and resources, was able to create an impact far larger than its financial effect. One clear example was the ability of the fund to establish palliative care as a key element of the U.S. government’s PEPFAR program that has now placed over 5,000,000 people on antiretroviral treatment in Africa and the Caribbean. As the architect of PEPFAR and a palliative care physician, I was able to assure Lady McCorquodale that it was a direct result of the Fund’s work that palliative care was made part of the original PEPFAR legislation.
Representatives from the U.S. based Foundation for Hospices in Sub-Saharan Africa (part of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Association of the U.S.) were also in attendance as were representatives of the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of South Africa, both organizations having received generous financial support from the Fund.
Sir Roger Singleton CBE, Chair of the Fund’s board, also spoke particularly welcome words in confirming the legacy awards that the Fund was distributing – with £250,000 being given to the African Palliative Care Association to help with its ongoing work.
The Fund’s work extended far beyond palliative care. The cause of marginalized and vulnerable children were particularly central to the Fund’s mission as were penal system reform, cluster munitions and refugees and asylum seekers. Each of these issues received the full force of the Fund’s financial and political effort and each in its own way was able to leave the world a better, kinder and more compassionate place– just as did the Princess of Wales whose name the Fund carried.