South Africa: Children's Hospice an Oasis for Those in Need


In July Bloemfontein is dry and hued in shades of brown. Against this backdrop, the Sunflower Children's Hospice rises like an oasis: The house is covered in bright murals and surrounded by trees and budding shrubs.

Food smells pour from the kitchen of the Sunflower Children's Hospice in Bloemfontein. There are stuffed toys perched on stools: Barney the dinosaur, a giraffe and a teddy bear.

In 1998, as the Aids epidemic was sweeping through South Africa, paediatric palliative pioneer Joan Marston founded the special hospice for children. At the time, it was a first of its kind in the country. Most of the home's early patients were babies dying of Aids. Situated next to Bloemfontein's National District Hospital, its patients have access to top medical and surgical care.

Today, the house is home to 15 young patients with life-threatening diseases. They sleep in 14 donated cots in three bedrooms; the eldest, nine-year-old Fransina, has a bed. At any time two carers are on duty to look after them. Even at night, two members of staff stay awake.

Fransina has spina bifida and kidney problems. In the house's lounge, she is bent over a small table, meticulously shading a picture with...

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