I believe there are two types of people. Those who complain about a problem, and those who get involved to do something about it. Sue van der Linde is the latter.
After returning from the UK, Sue came home to South Africa with the intention of joining an organization that provided palliative and respite care to children in the Cape. She had spent her eight years working with organizations that did this type of work, and was keen to put that practical experience to good use at home.
“However, when I looked around I couldn’t find a version of respite care and children’s hospice services, at least not the kind I had experienced in the UK. I had two choices – walk away, or do it myself,” she tells me.
This led to the birth of what is now known as Iris House Children’s Hospice in May 2011. By the end of the year, Iris House had 12 registered families, very little support and only two volunteers. Everything was done from her home and from her husband’s office.
“We were looking for a building to use as a base for our work, and found a derelict building in Stikland in 2015. Lots of blood, sweat and tears went into fixing it up and turning it into what you see today; a best practice children’s hospice.”
The opening of the building, she adds, also meant that they could now expand on their community based service (where counselors come to your home) by offering therapy services at the hospice building, as well as the services of a nurse and physio. They even run literacy programs and surfing lessons.
“We are now sitting on more than 400 children. Goodness knows where we will be this time next year, because we still haven’t even scratched the surface.”
Listening to the passion in Sue’s voice for the work she does, and keeping in mind that all the children they care for have some sort of life-limiting condition, it is clear that a great future lies ahead for Iris House. It started small, but it has achieved so much for people in need.
And that, for me, is the real difference that can be made when people decide to roll up their sleeves and get involved.