Drakenstein Palliative Hospice: Meet Petro Gordon

This month we will be looking at Drakenstein Palliative hospice, a hospice that not only focuses on patients and patient care at home, but also looks specifically at children’s needs with regard to palliative care and how important it is for them.

Today we meet Petro Gordon, early child care programme supervisor around these aspects, as well as her personal development in life leading up to her current job at Drakenstein hospice.

Petro was born and bred in Paarl and before she started work for Drakenstein Palliative hospice she plied her trade in an Afrikaans language museum where she worked with a curator conducting research in the Western Cape areas such as Namaqua land – then conducting interviews and compiling stories about the information that they gathered. This was a job she held for 6 years before moving on.

During these 6 years, Petra completed an ECCD (early child care development) course and had a crèche running which she managed. Petro expressed to us her love and passion for children and the fact that she always wanted to work with them, especially those children who are poverty stricken and those living with HIV/AIDS. When she heard about the position at Drakenstein Palliative hospice she immediately saw it as a blessing in disguise. She applied for the position, and has now been a proud member of the team of Drakenstein hospice for 6 years!

The concept of the Butterfly House revolves around the fact that a butterfly cannot be helped out of a cocoon; to live, it has to struggle out of it by itself, but needs the environment and resources to develop and grow into a strong, healthy butterfly.

So what is the Butterfly House? The Butterfly House is a school in the heart of  poverty stricken Paarl East, assisting children and patients with social, developmental and educational skills – with programes running in the morning and afternoon for children from the ages of 2 years old all the way to 19 years old.

A typical day is broken up into two sections, explains Petro. The morning programme caters for about 22 children/patients aged between 2-5 years of age. The typical child that one sees in the programme are the very vulnerable, poverty stricken children with many of them  infected with HIV. The day starts at 10am, when home-based carers goes into the community and picks up children from their homes. They arrive at the Butterfly House and eat breakfast. At 13.30 lunch is served and that is when the day comes to an end for the ‘morning programme’.

The ‘afternoon program’ which starts at 3pm and ends at 5pm is for the older children and there are many more children in this program, up to 250 on an average day. These children are also based in the community and most of them come after school and look at it as an ‘aftercare’ programme which consists of fun activities for the children like ballroom dancing, life skill programs and academic support.

We then asked Petro about the typical challenges one faces running such a concept and of course the typical rewards one experiences doing such positive work in the community. She told us that the challenges she faces are the drugs, alcohol and teenage pregnancy. The rewards she experiences are the ones that warm their hearts, like the smiles they get from the children and patients who are touched by the wonderful work the team is doing.  

They have a volunteer system in place where they ask members of the community to help and she said that they really depend heavily on them and appreciate them very much!

“We can’t do any of this alone, volunteers are key” – stated Petro.

Another great initiative that the Butterfly House have is a project called “Reading Aunties”. They are volunteers from the community who read to the patients and children. It’s a new project, that’s being sponsored by a woman who holds Drakenstein Palliative hospice and the Butterfly House close to her heart. Her name is Vigdis Eriksen and she is from Norway. Vigdis visits every year, and one year she went back to her country and told her friends there that the Butterfly House really needs books! So they all got together and donated books to bring back to South Africa from Norway for them to read. Vigdis donates money every month to this project and they are very grateful for that.

If you would like to know more about this project please contact Drakenstein Palliative hospice and email riana@drakensteinhospice.org.za and if you would like to know more about Drakenstein themselves visit their website – www.drakensteinhospice.org.za