Supporting a charity or an institution is quite common. But dedicating yourself fully to a good cause and turn this into your daytime job is another level. Who are the people who dedicate their lives to helping others? This time: Chariklia Mylona. She works for Galilee, the only hospice in Greece.
Name: Chariklia Mylona
Education: Barrister At Law for England and Wales
Current job: Director of Shipping Company
Why are you committed to this very goal?
In 2004, I met His Eminence the Metropolitan of Mesogaias and Lavreotikis: Nikolaos Chadjinikolaou. His Eminence has a very impressive curriculum, including a Masters’ Degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, a Masters’ degree in Astrophysics from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering and Applied Mathematics. For four years, he worked as a Space Medical Technology Consultant for NASA and as a researcher at Boston Childrens' Hospital and Mass. General Hospital. This work brought him face to face with the pain and anxiety of terminally ill patients and their loved ones.
With this background and knowing the lack of care for the terminally ill people in Greece, he envisaged the creation of Galilee, in 2007. To this date, Galilee is the only Palliative Care Institution in Greece. I joined his team from the beginning. I am not really frightened of death myself, but I cannot see pain and suffering in other people. The idea that you can help ease the last days of peoples’ lives, was enough for me to devote myself to this cause.
In the period from 2007 until 2010, preparations were made. A team of doctors, nurses and other medical staff began training in Palliative Care. In 2010 Galilee commenced offering home care. Doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, social workers, psychologists began to visit the patients at their homes twice a week and if necessary even more often. Volunteers began visiting patients to keep them company or help them in daily matters. The patients were given telephone access to both teams on a 24/7 basis.
As a second stage, Galilee opened the Day Care Centre in 2011. Here, patients can socialize, do various crafts, get their hair done, read, sing, or even take small excursions. Their transportation and meals are all taken care of by volunteers. This is really appreciated by the patients. It boosts their morale and helps them feel less lonely.
The third stage came in 2018 with the creation of the Hospice. At this centre patients are nursed in-house and provided with round the clock medical assistance amongst other things. Today, our team consists of 40 employees and 180 volunteers
Our hope and goal for the future is to assist the creation of more hospices all over the country. In this respect we also organize two seminars per year offering specialized training to medical staff in Greece as well as general training on the organisational needs of such a unit. In ten years Galilee has offered assistance to almost 40.000 patients. Imagine what could be done if there were several hospices across the country.
What is your biggest challenge?
Galilee is free of charge and open to all who need it, irrespective of age, religion, nationality or any other consideration. It is not supported by the government or by any health insurance company. So we are completely dependent on private donations and contributions. And that’s my job: I help with the fundraising.
In the beginning it was difficult to persuade that there was substance behind the vision. It was only after the number of patients grew that we were able to demonstrate the impact that Galilee had on society. But our timing was not the most favourable for fundraising! Greece has been struggling financially for almost a decade and although Galilee has become a recognizable worthy cause, it is increasingly harder to source the funds needed to maintain the exact same level of care. This is the biggest challenge of all, since anything less is simply unacceptable.
One of our ongoing actions is that we have arranged with the world renowned artist Christos Bokoros to offer serigraphs one of his original paintings, signed by him and numbered. The serigraphs can be purchased through Galilee or are offered as gratitude to individuals who make sizable donations.
What is your main character trait?
Perseverance. You can never stop and never give up. My life also reflects this. My husband and I came here in Greece as refugees, in 1974, when Cyprus was invaded by Turkey. I had a baby in my arms. We never left Greece again and we managed to rebuild our lives and a successful company.
If you want to do this kind of work, you have to love the purpose and devote yourself to it and always speak from the heart.
Who is your role model?
I’ve never had role models in my life. I believe that everybody is blessed with weaknesses and strengths and the secret is to find out what works for you and use the relevant ability at the right moment.
What is your motto in life?
Understanding and consideration. At the end of my life, I want to be able to look back and be proud of what I achieved.
What has been your greatest success so far?
I can’t say that for myself. Let other people judge what I do. Of course, I am proud, of my children, of my husband.
But let me tell you a story that summarizes why I devote myself to this work. Most of the people who come Galilee have gone through various treatments and experienced a lot of pain and suffering. Usually they suffer from depression as well. If they have enough time in the hospice, you see them beginning to feel better psychologically. I shall not forget one man. He came in very depressed. A few days before he passed away he said to a nurse: ‘Thank you for helping me dying peaceful.’
When is your task completed?
The daily job of finding the funds to run Galilee never ends. Our target is to make Galilee self- sustainable, but we are a long way away from that point.