The Marie Curie project to improve access to palliative care services for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities in south east Cardiff – which was funded by the Big Lottery Fund – has been running for three years, and held a celebration event at Butetown Community Centre last Thursday.
People from BAME communities make up just under one-fifth of Cardiff’s population, but many of these people who were living with terminal illnesses were missing out on end of life care due to a lack of awareness of the services on offer.
The Marie Curie project began in September 2012, building links with community groups and responding to changes that they suggested.
The charity’s Cardiff & the Vale Hospice has implemented a number of changes, including an improved quiet room wish washing facilities for prayer or quiet contemplation, furnished with items for various different faiths.
DVDs and leaflets with information about hospice services have also been produced in a number of different languages.
An average of around 50 people from BAME communities supported by the hospice each year since the project began, up from 30 people in the year before the project began.
Alex Salem’s family was one of those to benefit from the project: Alex’s mother, who had cancer, received support at the day therapy unit at the hospice in 2013. Hospice staff were also able to assist Alex in arranging a trip for his mother to Lebanon – her home country – before she died.
“The support from Marie Curie gave me the time to go on with my day-to-day living,” Alex told the Marie Curie website. “With the Marie Curie nurses, they would come and they would make sure that she was having the care while I was having my sleep. It gave me the peace of mind that she was in safe hands. This way I would have the energy to be with her in the morning, be positive and support her.
“Mum always wanted to go back to Lebanon, and she always wanted to spend her final days in Lebanon. The staff at Marie Curie said this was fine and that they would support her. Unfortunately she lasted only a little bit after take-off, but her last thoughts were that she was going home, and Marie Curie made that happen.
“As a person from a minority ethnic background, I would say that families going through something similar to what we went through need to make use of Marie Curie and the services there. I know we have a culture of bottling things in and doing things at home, but with Marie Curie and this BAME project, it is a perfect service.
“The staff at Marie Curie are very understanding – they understand what the patient needs and what the family needs as well. It has been a great help for me and without the support of Marie Curie the whole experience would have been much more difficult for me.”
Welsh Assembly member and deputy minister for health, Vaughan Gething, attended the celebration event, and paid tribute to those involved in the project.
“I was pleased to be able to speak at this celebration of this successful project which aims to achieve equal access to palliative care services for diverse communities,” he said. “One of the aims of our End of life care delivery plan is to ensure we reach all communities to support people if they wish to remain in their own home or place of care at the end of their lives.”
He added: “High-quality palliative care services should be provided to those in need, wherever they live and die and whatever their underlying condition or disability, without prejudice.”
Shameem Nawaz, community development officer for Marie Curie, said: “The task facing us at the start of this project was a large one, but I am very proud to say that by working with the local community we have made real changes during this time – identifying and breaking down the barriers preventing members of minority ethnic communities from accessing palliative care.
“I am sure that the values unearthed during this work will continue to shape the work of Marie Curie for many years to come.”
Find out more about the services Marie Curie provides on the charity’s website.