Stalwart steps down after years in service to Pretoria’s Sungardens Hospice, Newsline

IT started as a job to cure loneliness, but for the next 28 years it became her passion.

Now, Wendy Uys is retiring as the general manager of the Pretoria Sungardens Hospice, an organisation she started serving in the early 1990s, soon after her move to Pretoria and the death of her first husband.

She had come to the city from Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, with three children and started at the hospice as a volunteer after hearing the founder speak on TV and ask for help.

“My husband had died and I hated weekends because the kids’ social life was better than mine, and I was lonely,” she said.

Her first job was to write thank-you letters to donors, said Uys.

The hospice, founded by Shelagh Lahoud, offers specialised palliative care for people in the Pretoria area who are living with progressive and life-threatening illness, and as a non-profit organisation relies on donations for much of its work.

As time went on, she was asked to take up the role of administrator, and other positions followed as the organisation grew, until she became the general manager, a position she held for 15 years.

She described a highlight as receiving an R8 million bequest from a friend of her husband’s towards the work of the hospice.

“My husband’s friend was ill and used a wheelchair, and she used to ask him to come and help her with her computer and other technology stuff. She wasn’t even our patient, and to us that was ‘wow, that was huge’.”

Uys said it was time for some change at the hospice with new leadership, especially in terms of fund-raising. The hospice’s popular charity shop – divided into clothing, books and “white elephant” – generates about half its income. Other fund-raising activities include a monthly raffle and corporate sponsorships.

The hospice offers a programme of specialised home-based care to patients and their families dealing with terminal illness such as cancer, HIV/Aids, final stages of emphysema and motor neuron disease.

The hospice team is also involved in day-care programmes, bereavement counselling and training, and has a small in-patient ward at its premises in Twig Street, off Lynnwood Road.

For Uys, who remarried and has an extended family, it is time to relax and have more family time, but she said the hospice was her second home and she would always be available to help if needed.