WE GO NOW ACROSS THE GLOBE TO THE CROWDED,
WINDING STREETS OF THE PAKISTANI CITY RAWALPINDI, WHERE A SMALL CHRISTIAN HOSPICE LED BY IRISH
NUNS HAS TAKEN CARE OF THE DESTITUTE AND DISABLED FOR 50 YEARS. BUT THE HOSPICE THAT CATERS MAINLY TO MUSLIM
PATIENTS IS NOW BEING FORCED TO CLOSE BECAUSE OF FALLING DONATIONS AND RISING COSTS. VOA’S
SHARON BEHN HAS THE STORY. AISHA GULREHMAN HAS CEREBRAL PALSY. AT 12,
SHE WAS HIT BY A BULLET OUTSIDE HER HOME IN PAKISTAN’S POOR NORTHWEST. THIS CHRISTIAN
HOSPICE HAS BEEN HER HOME FOR TEN YEARS. “WHEN I FIRST CAME HERE I COULDN’T DO ANYTHING.
NOW, I CAN EAT BY MYSELF AND I CAN WRITE. EVERYBODY HERE LOVES ME AND TAKES CARE OF
ME. I WASN’T LOOKED AFTER LIKE THIS IN MY OWN HOME. LIKE AISHA, ALL FOURTY PATIENTS HERE ARE DESTITUTE.
SOME OF THE PARAPLEGICS AND QUADREPLEGICS HAVE BEEN ABANDONED. SISTER MARGARET WALSH
AND A TEAM OF PAKISTANI AND INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEERS HAVE BEEN TRYING TO KEEP ST. JOSEPH’S
RUNNING. BUT AFTER FIFTY YEARS, DONATIONS ARE DRYING UP. AND BOOKKEEPER NAVEED INDERYAS
SAYS FUEL, ELECTRICITY AND MEDICAL COSTS ARE RISING. “YES, ACCORDING TO THE BANK BALANCES, WE CAN
SURVIVE ONLY FOR FIVE MONTHS.” ALTHOUGH IT CARES FOR PEOPLE OF MANY RELIGIONS,
MANY THINK THAT AS A CHRISTIAN INSTITUTION, CHRISTIANS SHOULD RAISE THE MONEY. BUT SECTARIAN
VIOLENCE HAS PUSHED MANY OF PAKISTAN’S WEALTHIER CHRISTIANS TO DEPART, LEAVING FEW DONORS.
WHILE THERE ARE MANY CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS IN PAKISTAN, ST. JOSEPH’S IS UNIQUE, SAYS
DR. MUNAWAR SHER KHAN, A MUSLIM WHO HAS BEEN INVOLVED WITH THE HOSPICE FOR FORTY YEARS. “THERE IS NO PLACE TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE,
THAT WOULD, THAT HELPS THE DISABLED, THE CHRONICALLY ILL, THE REJECTED FROM OTHER HOSPITALS…THEY
CAN’T AFFORD TO GO HOSPITALS. THEY CAN’T AFFORD EXPENSIVE TREATMENT.” ABLER PATIENTS ARE ENCOURAGED TO STAY ACTIVE.
MOHAMMAD SOHAIL WAS A YOUNG MAN WHEN HE DOVE INTO A LAKE AND CRACKED HIS HEAD ON A ROCK,
PARALYZING HIM FROM THE NECK DOWN. “I HAVE NO WORDS TO TELL YOU WHAT THESE PEOPLE
AT THIS HOSPICE…THEY KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH ME. DRESSING, FOOD, A LOT OF OTHER THINGS,
SPECIAL NEEDS FOR PATIENTS THEY PROVIDE US. AND SLOWLY, STARTING THAT DAY, I DID MOVE
MY NECK, MY HAND, MY FINGER, AND NOW I AM LIKE A BIG MAN.” UNFORTUNATELY, SUCH SUCCESS STORIES COULD
SOON BE A THING OF THE PAST, WITHOUT DONATED FUNDS TO KEEP THE DOORS OPEN. MUNAWAR STILL
CANNOT BELIEVE THAT IT MAY COME TO PASS. WHY ARE WE CLOSING? INSUFFICIENT FUNDS? PEOPLE
DON’T CARE ANYMORE? I CARE…THAT’S IT.” SISTER MARGARET WALSH SAYS SHE WILL FIGHT
TO KEEP THE HOSTPICE OPEN. CLOSING SEEMS TOO PAINFUL AN OPTION. SHARON BEHN, VOA NEWS,
RAWALPINDI. AND AGAIN THAT WAS VOA ISLAMABAD CORRESPONDENT
SHARON BEHN. SHARON DID A LOT OF IMPORTANT REPORTING FOR US IN THE LAST YEAR, AND WE
LOOK FORWARD TO HAVING HER ON AGAIN IN 2014.