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INDIA, Rishikesh, December 2017
Hospice Volunteer Coordinator from USA 
I was introduced to Ganga Prem Hospice (GPH) years ago, by a nurse I worked with at a hospice in Santa Fe. She’d volunteered with GPH years before the GPH building was ready. She inspired me to find the GPH website and read the newsletters.

  When the inpatient hospice opened and patients had been admitted, it seemed a perfect time to offer my experience in managing and training volunteers and doing hospice education in the community.
Rose Gordon giving a talk to nurses
Rose Gordon giving a talk to nurses


I feel I was very well used as a volunteer thanks to the enthusiasm, experience, organizational skills and vision of Nani Ma, GPH’s Spiritual Care advisor and Dr. Brenda Ward, who was managing volunteers and tending patients at GPH. Their thoughtfulness and inclusivity made this experience productive, meaningful and delightful. The support staff at GPH, including drivers, cooks and housekeeping staff, were warm and welcoming. GPH volunteers Bibi Hamel and Anup, who live in RIshikesh were tremendously helpful and generous in translation when needed and with their knowledge of Rishikesh. 

There was a great team of international volunteers present during my 5 weeks, including a Palliative Care Specialist from the UK, a General Practitioner from Spain and a retired Hospice Administrator and Bereavement counselor from the U.S. Gene (Genevieve) Singer, a Social Work student from Germany, had a special project about organizing volunteers and her project created a container for many of our efforts.  Jyothi Jayan Warrier, who is a volunteer trainer at the Pain and Palliative Care Society in Thrissur, in Kerala, India was also there. It was wonderful to have her “field” experience be an ingredient in all the presentations we made.  It was and honor and a delight to work with them.

Here is a bit of what I was able to participate in:

  • An educational presentation to the Rotary Club in Rishikesh, which resulted in lively conversation about hospice and end of life.
  • Collaborate with Jyothi Jayan Warrier, in a  presentation about the Role of Volunteers in Palliative Care, at the Third Annual "Essentials of Palliative Care" Training Course, hosted by Seema Dental College & Hospital (SDCH)
  • Design a day of training to a group of GPH volunteers in collaboration with Dr. Laurie Anderson and Jyouthi Jayan Warrier.
  • Collaborate with Bhavani (Laurie) Farmer on Bereavement sessions for GPH staff and two separate sessions for adults and children of GPH patients
  • Design and present an experiential “End of Life Awareness” session to 60 third year nursing students at AIMS hospital in Rishikesh, with the help of Bhavani Farmer and Dr. Laurie Anderson
  • Join home visits to patients in Deradhun and witness the fine work being done by Sr. Priyanka Nainwal, a GPH nurse who brings information, skill, compassion, medicine and supplies to GPH patients at home and at the GPH facility.

In times like these, when the world seems aflame with troubles, its inspiring to be engaged in this work. And there is so much to learn in India. The courage and warm heartedness of the patients and their caregivers touched me deeply. I don’t think I will ever forget them and I hope to return.

GPH is doing needed work bringing hospice and the principles of Palliative Care forward in Uttarakhand. If you are involved in Palliative Care or Hospice Work, volunteering at Ganga Prem gives the opportunity to both share your skills and broaden your base of experience. I encourage you to support their valuable efforts in whatever ways you can.

By Rose Gordon

INDIA, Rishikesh, January 19th -January 28th 2017
Art Psychotherapist from St Christopher’s Hospice 
My name is Lara Cooke and I am an Art Psychotherapist. I work in St. Christopher’s hospice London, which is widely regarded as the first modern hospice. 

Art psychotherapy is a type of psychotherapy where art media is used as its primary mode of expression and communication. It is used to explore and address difficult feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts and foster self-awareness. Clients or patients do not have to be skilful at art and it is not a recreational art lesson. Art psychotherapists work with both adults and children presenting a range of difficulties, disabilities and diagnoses such as mental health problems; learning and physical disabilities; life limiting conditions and terminal illnesses.

In the hospice setting I work with the patients ‘emotional’ pain rather than ‘physical’ pain although the two interrelate. I feel it can help patients shift from the passive position of being ill to the active stance of an expressive individual, a catalyst for self-discovery. It can open channels of blocked communication and self-expression, to bring about a sense of inner peace, harmony and healing despite the physical body fading.

Narratives East West

I wanted to come and work at Ganga Prem Hospice in Rishikesh to gain insight into end of life care in India, especially from a psychosocial and spiritual perspective. I am currently researching ‘loss’ from an eastern and western perspective, thinking about it as a ‘universal concept’. In one of my art therapy groups at St. Christopher’s, patients and the bereaved made a quilt exploring their personal narratives with ‘loss’. Each participant made a pocket patch and inside embedded relics, memories, creative writing, poems etc. The quilt was then brought to Ganga Prem Hospice and shared with staff, patients and the bereaved who in return made artwork for a quilt which will be brought back and shared with the St. Christopher’s group. I called the project Narratives East West as it allowed for an exchange and sharing of one’s relationship with loss.

Quilt from St Christopher’s Hospice
Quilt from St Christopher’s Hospice
Quilt from Ganga Prem Hospice
Quilt from Ganga Prem Hospice



My Experiences at Ganga Prem Hospice

When I first arrived at the main GPH office in Rishikesh I was greeted with warmth and appreciation by the wonderful team of doctors, nurses, administrative staff and an Interpreter. I was somewhat shocked by the basic facilities having been used to an extremely clinical, sterile and sophisticated hospice environment. There was a huge amount of spirited energy and passion amongst staff as the day ahead was planned with a flurry of momentum. I very quickly felt like there was no time to waste, that here was very important work to be done. My first client was a home visit in Haridwar with a young child who had a brain tumour.  She was unable to sit up unaided and so the session took place at the bedside. I brought a selection of art materials, which I felt would not require a lot of control, due to the patient’s weakness in her hands.

  The therapy continued for two more sessions, the third session taking place in the hospital where she has recently been admitted. In the same hospital I worked with a young man who had been through a harrowing battle with cancer, resulting in a leg amputation. He used the session to affirm his determination and strength through his artwork. With both cases, art therapy provided them with a safe space to explore and express their feelings, without the pressure or limitations of words.
The child patient with her art work on the wall
The child patient with her art work on the wall



Ganga Prem Celebrates Lives

During my time at GPH I helped organise an event for the bereaved, which used music and art therapy to commemorate the lives of deceased GPH patients. The social event united people who were going through the pain of losing a loved one. In St Christopher’s there is daily social program, which invites the local community into the hospice to take part in the arts with the aim of dissolving any fear attached to the hospice environment relating to illness and death. It also provides a supportive space for the bereaved to come together, to share their experiences, lessening feelings of isolation.

The Tree of remembrance
The Tree of remembrance
Lighting the lamp
Lighting the lamp



Staff at GPH came up with the image of a ‘tree of remembrance’, which was created on a large sheet of material. People placed photos of the deceased around the tree. Following this they drew or wrote a personal message to their loved one on a fabric leaf along with lighting oil lamps and decorating the tree with flowers. The artwork felt alive as it grew and changed shape, like an organic installation sculpture. I was originally concerned that the western notion of making art to explore ones ‘feelings’ may have felt too alien and would be resisted by those involved. However, it was quite the opposite and there was a sincere willingness to engage. I wondered if the more culturally familiar rituals such as lighting Diya oil lamps and using flowers along with the presence of Rangoli artwork made it feel less foreign. I spoke with one of the nurses about this and she suggested that people in the west would be more fearful and reserved. Today, most westerners find death an uneasy subject. As western cultures have become more secular and heterogeneous, the rituals that once guided communities have faded. Loss and grief have become more private and less of a shared communal experience.

Art therapy in progress
Art therapy in progress

There was a strong sense of unity and togetherness, held together through the music and artwork. After delivering a speech explaining what art psychotherapy was, I invited people to return for an art therapy bereavement group later in the week. The turnout of this was good which indicated that there are bereaved people in the local community seeking emotional support, especially those isolated without family support. Those who attended made artwork for the St. Christopher’s Hospice quilt. Hopefully this group can now continue monthly and be run by a volunteer.


INDIA, Rishikesh, June 17th -August 19th 2016
Student from Harvard Divinity School
Michelle Bentsman, a student from Harvard Divinity School in the USA, spent nine weeks with Ganga Prem Hospice this summer helping to structure the GPH spiritual care programme. Michelle helped with both the organisational side of the programme and the fieldwork with the patients. The following describes her experience in her own words.

After a year of intensive Hindu studies and a long-abiding interest in the hospice movement, I felt compelled to spend the summer at an Indian hospice with a spiritual care program. Ganga Prem was my first and only choice. My excitement in the months leading up to my departure was palpable (was that the rushing of the Ganga I heard while I meditated?) but the reality of my experience far exceeded my expectations.

Michelle takes notes at a conference
Michelle takes notes at a conference
Michelle on a bereavement visit
Michelle on a bereavement visit



Even before I arrived in Rishikesh, I was greeted with warmth and care from the Ganga Prem Hospice team, which only grew as time went on. A capable committed group of doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and spiritual practitioners quickly became my friends, teachers, and family.

Each day was an adventure: we would traverse new terrain, whether in Rishikesh, Haridwar, Dehradun, or somewhere in-between, and wherever we went, the mystery of what we might next encounter loomed large. Our lovable patients were ultimately our guides, helping us to better understand what they needed, while we did our utmost to provide it.

The work was undeniably challenging, but its rewards immediate and lasting. I will not soon forget the beauty and intensity of short exchanges or lasting relationships, whether formed through the simplicity of a shared gaze, a heartfelt embrace, or longer conversations about God, suffering, and everything in-between. Sometimes a small question would unlock tears of relief; sometimes reciting a mantra could still the outcries of pain. Sometimes I wished each visit could go on without end.

I deeply cherish my time spent with Ganga Prem and hope to reunite with this community of fearless givers again soon.

By Michelle Bentsman


INDIA, Rishikesh, June 28th -July 14th 2016
U.S. Hospice Nurse Spends Time at GPH
Dana E. Pieretti, RN, BSN, CHPN spent two weeks with Ganga Prem Hospice at the end of June and beginning of July 2016. During that time she spoke at the Dehradun Pain and Palliative Care Conference and paid regular home care visits with the GPH home care teams. She relates her experience in this testimonial.

India was my “must go to before I die” place, and I wanted to be more than a tourist or another Westerner seeking enlightenment. I wanted to be a part of the culture and community, if only for a brief time, and the best way I knew how to do that was to take my skills as a hospice nurse to India. I googled “hospices in India” and found Ganga Prem, which seemed like a perfect fit for me, I sent an email and next thing I knew I was on my way to Rishikesh!

Dana on a home care visit
Dana on a home care visit
Dana examines a home care patient
Dana examines a home care patient



 I cannot say enough about the staff at Ganga Prem, from the day I walked into the office in Rishikesh I was treated like family. I spent my days with the nurses Mamta, Philomena, and Priyanka visiting patients in Rishikesh, Haridwar and Dehradun. The love and compassion the nurses have for their patients and the patient’s family was remarkable. It was evident by the warm welcome that we received every time we visited a patient. 

One patient in particular lived in Haridwar in a one-room shack with her husband and four children. 35 years old and diagnosed with a parotid tumor, this young woman was in agony. Strong pain control medication is not easy to access in India, but thankfully Ganga Prem has experienced doctors and nurses who know how to prescribe it.  The patient was started on an aggressive medication regimen to treat her pain, and was funded by Ganga Prem to receive chemotherapy at Jolly Grant Hospital. After she returned home from the hospital her symptoms returned, but thankfully Ganga Prem was there to ease her discomfort. We visited multiple times a week to check in on her and on my last day with GPH the owner of the restaurant next to the GPH office donated a month’s worth of food to the patient’s family to ease their burden. The highlight of this donation was the fruit juice brought to the patient, her face lit up with delight and she couldn’t stop smiling as she drank it. I was reminded that it’s the little things that make all the difference in the world. Thank you Ganga Prem for reminding me of that, I can’t wait to come back and see you again.

By Dana E. Pieretti, RN, BSN, CHPN


INDIA, Rishikesh, March, April, May 2016
My experience with Ganga Prem Hospice
I write my thoughts about my experience with Ganga Prem Hospice though I am not a doctor, a nurse or a staff member. I write just as an honest observer.

  I spent a decent amount of time working with GPH in the past 3-4 months ever since I took a break from my job. My involvement was mostly related to the hospice construction activity at Gohri Mafi in Raiwala district. Monitoring institutional level construction work with little prior experience, dealing with contractors, project management and the weather gods, all of whom have little or no regard for time, is not the easiest thing to do. 
Mridul (right) discusses boundary wall with contractor’s son
Mridul (right) discusses with contractor’s son



But believe me when I say this – every brick laid by the end of the day only made me happier as it only brought us closer to our target of a fully functional hospice facility.  

Spending 4 hours at the GPH cancer camp in Rishikesh is enough to understand a bit of humility and humanity. When you see the 100+ cancer patients in a single camp, a few of them being in terminal stage, you will realize how insignificant your own problems are. Home care visits by the doctors and the nursing staff have their own set of challenges – rough weather, remote corners of remoter villages, long working hours and an endless effort of comforting a patient. There is a terrifying, soul piercing agony seeing someone breathe their last in front of you. One last look, one more moment of hope can be vitally important to the process of saying goodbye. That is what doctors and nurses at GPH strive for – to give that comfort at a time when there is none; caring for the dying, as well as their families.

Mridul at a GPH clinic meditation session
Mridul (centre) at a GPH clinic meditation session

My involvement with the Ganga Prem Hospice has given me a sense of spirituality and a sense of purpose in life. It has made me question my life thus far and has made me believe that more than it being successful, I want my life to stay meaningful. When I look back at my time spent in Rishikesh with the GPH family, the only regret I have is that I started getting involved too late! I hope to not make that mistake again. I will see my GPH family again, soon.




Mridul Dewan,
IT Engineer,

INDIA, Rishikesh, March, 2016
Hospice Medical Director Visits GPH
In March of 2016, I took a break from my hospice work here in Ottawa, Canada and traveled to Rishikesh to volunteer with GPH.

I stayed with Nani Ma at an ashram near Raiwala and visited the residential hospice site several times. It is a beautiful building with fantastic views of the Himalayan hills and river Ganga Ma. Without a doubt, the facility will be of huge benefit for hospice patients in and around Rishikesh.

I was also fortunate to spend some days with Dr. Aditi and the nursing teams visiting home care patients. Seeing the compassionate care provided to patients under sometimes challenging circumstances was inspiring. I was impressed by the comprehensive nature of the care provided, which included the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual dimensions.

I also visited Jolly Grant Cancer Hospital in Dehradun and presented lectures there on the nature of neuropathic pain and the importance of integrating palliative treatment into the care of late stage cancer patients. These were well received and will hopefully assist in the development of a partnership for GPH with this important health care institution.

Andrew Mai MD CCFP(PC)
Medical Director Hospice Care Ottawa
Assistant Professor University of Ottawa

INDIA, Rishikesh, February, 2016
Volunteer Dieticians from the UK
We were lucky enough to spend 5 days in February volunteering with the Ganga Prem Hospice team, through our contacts with the Rama Foundation. We are both Oncology Dietitians currently working for Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, UK.

During our time with GPH we undertook some home care visits, attended the monthly cancer care clinic, presented to the team on nutrition in cancer and visited the local hospital. We found the whole experience incredibly interesting, eye opening and at times challenging. We’d come to India expecting to find differences in the healthcare available but the surprises came from different sources than expected.

Liz and Jo give nutritional advice at GPH clinic
Liz and Jo give nutritional advice at GPH clinic
We had an awareness of the relative infancy of palliative care in Rishikesh and the surrounding area but we still came away feeling overwhelmed by how much work there is to do in this area of healthcare. So despite the fact that approximately 80% of patients are palliative at diagnosis, there is very limited support, medication or trained staff available. This makes it all the more impressive that GPH are undertaking this large challenge and trying to bridge the gap.

From a nutritional perspective, we encountered many barriers to treating malnutrition in palliative patients in the same way we would do in the UK. Unsurprisingly for some, one of these barriers was finance, especially when the sick individual had been the main income generator in the family. This meant that some of our suggestions for nutritional support were unable to be put into action, particularly as some of the foods that we would consider as cheap in the UK, such as butter or cream, were relatively expensive in India. Thankfully GPH, with the help of kind donations, is able to provide some support for people to buy some of these foods. Sadly however,we noticed that some patients struggled to accept these offers as they felt too proud. Another barrier to nutrition support was the infancy of the pharmaceutical industry in relation to nutritional products such as oral supplements and tube feeds, which were notably less available, more expensive and less energy dense. This is markedly different from the UK where these products are widely available and widely used, particularly in this patient group.

A further significant barrier,and one we hadn’t anticipated, was the focus on healthy eating in relation to other longer term health problems. The premise of nutritional support in palliative care is to increase the energy and protein content of the diet and this was found to conflict with the dietary messages they were following for their other longer term conditions, which were now less of a priority given their palliative condition. Many of the patients had diabetes or high blood pressure and so had been following low fat or low sugar diets and were not open to relaxing these restrictions. In our practice in the UK, along with the support of the wider oncology team, we would always encourage patients who are palliative to relax these dietary restrictions, as the goal of preventing long term complications such as heart disease is no longer appropriate or relevant. We encountered resistance from patients, carers and to our surprise health professionals on this point. It was apparent more education is needed in this area to prevent patients from dying from malnutrition as opposed to their cancer.

GPH have started up an inspirational service in what is clearly a much needed field. As a result, they have a great number of challenges ahead. However, we were heartened to see how passionate and caring the team are and we feel this level of dedication will serve them well in their efforts. Judging by the number of volunteers we encountered in our short time with GPH, we are clearly not the only ones inspired by the team. We will be encouraging our colleagues to consider providing further support in the future.

Liz Bradley and Jo Grey



INDIA, Rishikesh, January 2016
Palliative Care Consultant Visits GPH
Dr Sally Williams is a senior palliative care consultant from Adelaide, Australia who visited Ganga Prem Hospice with her daughter, a student radiographer, during the month of January 2016. Dr Sally served on home care visits and at the monthly clinic.

Thank you for allowing me to give feedback following my recent visit to the Ganga Prem Hospice, based in Rishikesh. Both Hannah and I feel so privileged to have been welcomed by the team, and had the experiences we have had during the past month.

Dr Sally and Dr Dewan examine a patient
Dr Sally and Dr Dewan examine a patient
Dr Sally and Hannah (2nd left) with the GPH team
Dr Sally and Hannah (2nd left) with the GPH team



It was immediately apparent that the small team work extremely hard, long hours including many hours traveling to patients quite some distance from the office. The team is compassionate, caring and professional in their approach to everything they do- from the office staff, drivers and clinical staff. The recent retreat was symbolic of the excellent hands that I feel Ganga Prem Hospice is in, as all staff attended irrespective of their roles, and the white board sentiments highlighted the sincerity and care that accompanies all that work with Ganga Prem.

The new hospice looks wonderful, and felt immediately peaceful and healing to me. You and the team must be so proud and excited as you see it take shape each week now. I imagine that the local community may wonder what the facility will be used for so I feel that this will be a terrific opportunity to raise awareness about the hospice and Palliative care in general as you get closer to receiving the first patients.

In closing I really just wanted to say that I have taken a lot more than I have given, and am extremely grateful for this opportunity that you and the rest of the Ganga Prem Team have given both Hannah and I. Hannah plans to study hard and return to India again in her capacity as a Radiographer one day. My immediate plans are to settle back to Adelaide, and encourage my team to become involved with Ganga Prem Hospice in some way. I plan to do some fund-raising and will put on an Indian dinner as my first event.

I will stay in touch with the team, and in particular with Dr Aditi who in my opinion is an outstanding Palliative Care Consultant, and a wonderful ambassador for Ganga Prem Hospice as it continues to develop within the community.

Dr. Sally Williams,
Senior Consultant Palliative Medicine,
Adelaide, Australia.


INDIA, Rishikesh, October 2015-March 2016
Time with GPH, Rishikesh 2015-16
Following a charity fund raising trek to the Himalaya for my workplace in 2012 and an internet search for a hospice in the region, I first visited Ganga Prem Hospice (GPH) Rishikesh in 2013.

Rishikesh is a special place in the foothills of the Himalaya in the state of Uttarakhand, North India.  It is a place for pilgrims and is considered a holy town. No meat, eggs or alcohol are sold openly. It is built on either side of the river Ganges (Ma Ganga) and provides a picturesque spot to live in.

  This is now my third season in Rishikesh; I arrived at the end of October 15 and stayed until early March 16. It certainly feels like a second home to me now and has been a great way to spend 4-5 months over the UK winter seasons. I stayed in a lovely apartment overlooking the Ganga and close to all the facilities I required. I shared the apartment with another GPH supporter, Dominique, a Swiss psychiatrist who was a delight to live with. 
Dr Brenda with Dr Dominique
Dr Brenda with Dr Dominique



I enjoy continuing to spend time with the GPH team at Ganga Prem Hospice each year. GPH is a small NGO which strives to provide palliative care for the people of the holy towns of Rishikesh and Haridwar as well as Dehradun, the main city of the state of Uttarakhand and the environs. The hospice is in the process of building an inpatient unit which will be opening in 2016. The structure of the main part of the building is built. It will provide a site of refuge for 17 patients including children and it is clear it will be a very special place. It is built close to the Ganges in a beautiful quiet village outside Rishikesh.

In the meantime, the home care team work hard to provide holistic care to its patients through their home care program. The team of doctors, nurses and volunteers work 6 days/week, visiting patients in their homes. There they review symptoms, distribute appropriate medications for pain and other distressing symptoms and provide psychological and spiritual care for patients and their carers. Many of the patients are poor and particularly welcome the social input provided such as financial assistance for investigations and treatments or provision of food supplies. Over the cooler season (October to March) the GPH team is well supported by visitors from the West who are generally accompanied by local volunteers to assist with interpretation. During my time in Rishikesh this year, as well as the Swiss psychiatrist, visiting also was a trainee nurse from Canada, a US man who assists with administration and fundraising, two trainee nurses from Switzerland, a trainee nurse from Spain and an Australian palliative care doctor and her daughter. Visiting GPH is certainly a great way to meet people from different nationalities!

Dr Brenda at a GPH clinic
Dr Brenda at a GPH clinic
Dr Brenda on a home care visit
 Dr Brenda on a home care visit



The local GPH team is small; only one part time doctor, 3 nurses, a health care assistant and Nani Ma, the much loved spiritual adviser and one of the founders of the hospice. They are assisted by a small office based administrative team in Rishikesh with support from the administrator in Delhi. Dr Dewan, the Delhi based oncologist who started the hospice, visits monthly. He holds monthly cancer clinics in Rishikesh. Being free of charge, around 100 people attend the clinics. A number of these will have advanced cancer and are joined into the palliative care home care program. Other referrals are received from the local oncologists or by local volunteers who become aware of patients with cancer palliative care needs.

For the team, it is a great privilege to serve the local people who frequently are in desperate need of good pain control and emotional support. Health care in India is generally paid for by individuals and is not inexpensive. Many families built up debt when treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy are required. The terminal nature of the condition is invariably not explained to patients and often also not to families. They therefore continue to seek treatment and hope for cure instead of preparing themselves for the inevitable. The fear of their loved ones giving up hope if they are told of the prognosis is high and much counselling is required by the GPH team to ensure appropriate information is given. For those in particular social difficulties, the hospice team call on its local supporters to donate food etc. and when life-saving treatments are required, seeks funding from its supporters via the GPH website or other NGOs. At times the social input continues after the patient’s death. Assistance in finding family members jobs or schooling for children also occurs. The emotional support offered by the hospice cannot be underestimated. It is clear the regular presence of the team is appreciated in addition to the encouragement to phone at any time.

Palliative care is a relatively new speciality in India and there is little understanding of the concept amongst local health care professionals. In order to build links with the local cancer hospital, the team visit once a week and review patients both on the wards and the outpatient departments. Those palliative care patients who live locally are offered home care. Regular teaching for the oncology nurses in symptom control has been carried out.

The need to educate both the local community in the concept of palliative care and health care professionals in basic symptom control and appropriate referrals to the hospice service is considered paramount. The hospice relies on its community to provide support both financially and through referrals. Awareness raising events to generate potential volunteers and volunteer training has been carried out on several occasions and has had some success.  Invites from around the state have occurred. Recently the team travelled to the city of Ambala, in the Punjab, 165km away, to address a volunteer training campaign arranged by the local Rotary Club and to support the small hospital palliative care team.

Dr Brenda at the Palliative Training Course
Dr Brenda at the Palliative Training Course

November 2015 saw GPH host a 5 day training course in basic palliative care for health professionals. This is a recognised certificated course by the Indian Association of Palliative Care; consequently GPH is now a recognised training centre in palliative care in India.  It was attended by 32 participants and feedback from attendees was very positive.




To our surprise 14 participants were from the local dental college; both teachers and students. There is however, due to a high intake of alcohol and tobacco use, a high number of tumours of the head and neck in India and dentists are frequently a point of contact for these sufferers meaning introducing the concept of palliative care is highly appropriate. Following on from this course, both GPH and the principal of the dental college were keen to forge links with those interested dentists and a proposal to allow those dentistry teachers to accompany the home care team regularly to provide palliative care, and to attend the monthly cancer clinics to provide dental assistance was put forward to the dental college. This was successful. Since January 2016, a dental teacher accompanies the team one day a week to both provide expert dental advice and to become trained in palliative care provision. Dentists are now also present at the cancer clinics and are able to give advice as needed.

Whilst the last season saw a high number of awareness raising and education sessions, currently this year the team were focused on improving quality of life for patients. Three patients, two male and one female were all in their early 20’s and shared the same diagnosis; sarcoma. A lunch out in a café in a lovely location just outside their hometown Dehradun was arranged and a wonderful afternoon with food, music from one of the patients and her good friend, and dancing took place. One of the patients, an extremely brave young man, has a leg amputated. This did not stop him attending or dancing from his seat!  It was a humbling experience to be present with them. The team also helped two of these young people celebrate their birthdays by joining their birthday party celebrations.

In December the team celebrated Christmas with a Christmas party.  The event was arranged in order to provide an opportunity for those well enough to come together to relax, share a meal, enjoy music and of course have some fun.  Preparations began in the weeks prior to this in order to ensure the event was sponsored and entertainment arranged. For those not well enough to attend, close family members were invited to join the party on their behalf. Local businesses were approached to provide food for the meal, snacks, drinks and decorations. This also gave the team the opportunity to raise awareness of GPH in the town. In addition, several local supporters gave financial support for the event ensuring the event was financially covered. A mixture of Christmas music and Hindi music was played and a lot of fun was had dancing.

  The music was interspersed with singing and guitar playing from our much loved young patient Monika from Dehradun and her friend Melani. Both poignant and joyful memories were made for many of those present. Plans for theChristmas 2016 party is already in progress!
Dr Brenda with Monika
Dr Brenda with Monika



A suggestion to form a WhatsApp group for patients, staff and GPH supporters was made by one of the young people during the party. Touchingly, he requested it to be named ‘The Family of Ganga Prem Hospice.’ This group now has 21 members and continues to be used daily by many to stay in touch and to share inspirational quotes.

The first Christmas party for GPH was deemed by all to be a resounding success and inspired further events to entertain patients and families at the GPH office. A regular event named ‘Time to Relax’ was agreed. The first one was held in March and although more ‘low key’ than the Christmas party, also consisted of entertainment with music, snacks and enjoying new company. In addition, a family member of a deceased patient, a beauty therapist offered treatments, various complementary therapies were carried out and board games were played.Since my return to the UK, another party has been carried out to celebrate the Hindu festival ‘Holi’. This is the well-recognised Indian festival of colours and from the photos shared, certainly lived up to its name!

Each year the number of people, both locals and from overseas, interested in supporting GPH has grown. Not only does this allow palliative care provision to expand, but it also allows the team to expand their own knowledge and skills. The team took one morning away from patient care to reflect togetherand share their own experiences in palliative care. For some it was a time for spiritual growth. They also used each other to share skills learning about complementary therapies including massage and naturopathy.

The need for fundraising combined with a need to raise awareness of the hospice both locally and internationally remains high on the agenda for all those connected with GPH. With support from a local café, small articles such as Ganga Prem Hospice wall and desk calendars and incense are sold by the team as a means to discuss the hospice. The team also hosted a Christmas party on the evening of Christmas day at this café in order to achieve these outcomes.

A major fundraising event occurs annually each year. This is a concert by the well-known USA artist Krishna Das. KD performs Indian spiritual songs and has a big fan base throughout the world, particularly in the West but now also growing in India. He has a deep, moving voice and I regularly listen to his music. Although for volunteers it is busy throughout the concert, it is a joy to be present. KD gives his service at no cost; all donations from ticket sales goes to GPH. January 2016 saw the ninth KD concert and as usual was enjoyed by all.

Other opportune possibilities are taken whenever possible. For example, an application for a palliative care award by the Indian Cancer aid Society was made. In February 2016 the team presented their work at the Indian Association of Palliative Care International Conference in Pune.

Attendance at these conferences allow for networking both nationally and internationally and inspire the team. They are also of course an opportunity to travel and see a bit more of India.

Dr Brenda with GPH manager
Dr Brenda with GPH manager

The second Ganga Prem Hospice walk occurred in spring 2016. This followed on from a joint fundraising and awareness event which first took place on New Year’s Day 2015. As in the preceding year, the team arranged a walk through some scenic regions of the town. The views over the Ganga were terrific and everyone enjoyed the event. Locals and visitors to Rishikesh were encouraged to join in. Many local shopkeepers donated as the walkers passed their stores.




From this account it is clear I spend a lot of time with the GPH team. I am passionate about palliative care and love being in Rishikesh. Being with great people and in such a remarkable place keeps me inspired. Witnessing both the hospice itself and the field of palliative care expanding in the region keeps me coming back to visit. In my spare time there I enjoy walking along the Ganga and drinking chai with friends. Sadly learning Hindi continues to remain on the ‘to do’ list, not quite making it to the top each day!

Although back working as a palliative care doctor in the UK at present, I am planning to be back in Rishikesh in June 2016 in time for the planned State palliative care conference. I look forward to meeting old and new friends again on my next trip and hope to enjoy witnessing GPH continue to thrive in its ability to care. I cannot decide how long I want to stay in India this time, so I have bought a single ticket!
                                                                                                                          By Dr Brenda Ward
                                                                                                                             Palliative Care Consultant, UK


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