Message from the Management Committee 2016
Without doubt, the high point of this year 2016 was the garden party, held in the presence of the communal authorities, to celebrate the first five years of La Maison de Tara. The day unfolded under a golden summer sky and we were so grateful for the oases of shade from the marquees that the Commune de Chêne Bougeries had kindly provided for the occasion. Over a hundred guests joined the celebration including residents’ family members, past and present volunteers, collaborating medical professionals, members from the Board of Trustees, and of course residents themselves.
We were enchanted by the gentle strains of a harpist playing for us during the meal. Then, in a change of pace, we were regaled by a group of South American musicians inciting everyone to get up and dance, including even one of our residents. Another resident took the microphone to make a very moving speech expressing his gratitude and appreciation to Tara, which deeply touched us all.
This wonderful day encouraged us to look back on the past five years of Tara and the journey covered. We mulled over all the special shared moments with residents and their loved ones; all the friendships strengthened by the intensity and intimacy of those days and even weeks; and all the unforgettable stories and lessons of life gathered over this time. The sense of pride and gratitude was tangible throughout the whole day’s celebrations.
Another high point of 2016 was the award to Anne-Marie of the Robert-Scheimbet prize by the Geneva Society for Public Services, which she chose to receive in the name of all the volunteers at Tara. This award was created to “distinguish those people who have simply, modestly, discreetly, over a number of years, carried out what they consider to be their duty, both for themselves and for their kin, without any thought of recompense or reward”. The volunteers of La Maison de Tara were extremely touched by this token of recognition for their indefatigable commitment.
We also participated in the “Exposition proches-aidants” (Exhibition for Carers) in Chêne-Bougeries from 9-11 February 2016. This theme is one that we hold dearly since we are particularly well-placed to notice the many difficulties encountered by carers and the burden they must bear when a long-term illness strikes at the heart of their family. At the official opening ceremony in the presence of the cantonal authorities, Anne-Marie had the chance to present (La Maison de) Tara to all those present.
And so the weeks and months of this year were punctuated by many joyous occasions. Various celebrations such as birthdays, and even a marriage, were held in the intimacy of the dining-room at Tara. The couple’s solemn commitment was presided over by the Registrar of the Town Hall of Chêne-Bougeries, who herself was greatly touched by the occasion. And she was certainly not the only one to be moved by this couple’s exchanging of vows by the side of their three-year old little daughter. It was yet one more proof that La Maison de Tara is well and truly a place where life is celebrated right up until the very end.
Our training programme is also one of the keystones of Tara. Every year, two classes for new trainee volunteers are offered – one in English and one in French. In this way, we are able to “refresh” and to “renew” the team of volunteers, year on year. This programme is greatly enjoyed and appreciated by those who commit to the full year. In addition, we organised and offered two full days of training held at Webster University in Bellevue. Not only were all the volunteers invited but also some outside health professionals from both Geneva and neighbouring France.
The first of these days, held in June, was led by Mme Rosette Poletti who covered the theme “Accompagnement des proches de personnes en fin de vie pendant et après le décès.” (How to support those involved in the care of the terminally ill, both during and after death). She was followed by Mathieu Bernard on the subject of “La gratitude dans le contexte des soins palliatifs” (Gratitude within the context of palliative care) and then Dr. Yves Beyeler speaking about his own personal experience under the title of “Un médecin, ses patients, la maladie et la mort: 40 ans au rétroviseur.” (One Doctor, his patients, illness & death: A retrospective on 40 years)
The second day’s instruction in October was led by Tanguy Châtel who inspired and questioned us on the subject of “Accompagner la souffrance spirituelle en fin de vie” (How to support and be present for the terminally ill and their spiritual suffering).
In addition, two of our own Tara teachers participated in the teaching of a module on “Accompagnement de la personne en fin de vie et ses proches” (How to support the terminally ill and their carers/loved ones) part of the regular HUG ongoing training programme.
When one of our residents dies, we have made it a point to organize in-house meetings between the outside professionals, our staff and the team of volunteers. In this way we encourage an exchange of knowledge, values, experiences and a measure of self-interrogation which almost inevitably follows the close collaboration of those involved. This dialogue is an invaluable learning and enrichment tool, while never minimizing the inevitable suffering which accompanies the end of a person’s life.
Once again, this year, the fundraising effort was very successful and we are forever grateful to all those people and organisations, who by their generosity, encourage and enable our work. We were supported by over 240 individuals, communes and institutions. This number is impressive and allows us to contemplate 2017 with a measure of serenity.
Next year, from 16-18 November 2017, Geneva will host the 4th International Francophone Congress for Palliative Care. La Maison de Tara will of course participate. We very much hope that this important event will shine a light on the increasing knowledge and support available. The valuable work being done in this field, by professionals and volunteers alike, is even now too often little known and recognized.
And so, as we look forward to the next five years, La Maison de Tara remains steadfast to its special mission “to be a home from home, where every life is celebrated right to the very end.”