Cancer Relief Gibraltar Celebrates 40th Anniversary

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Recently described by the Governor Sir David Steel as the ‘jewel in the crown of charities in Gibraltar’, Cancer Relief Gibraltar celebrates its 40th Anniversary this year.

 Marisa Desoiza, Chair of Cancer Relief, explains how the charity was started back in 1983. “The Governor’s wife at that time, Lady Philippa Williams, and Maureen Stansfield who had experience of hospices in the UK, wanted to see if they could bring the same care to Gibraltar.” In the early 80s there was no property available so a committee of community and faith leaders, including Bishop Caruana, Dr Fitzpatrick, Momy Levy, Maribel Chiappe and Lillian Pitaluga, together with Governor Admiral Sir David Williams, set up the Gibraltar Society for Cancer Relief with a view to providing certain services. 

“These services included day support, lending nursing equipment to patients in the home and giving financial assistance, and from there the charity started very slowly,” Marisa says. “I remember the previous Chairwoman told me that the first donation they got was a mop and bucket for a room they were given by the Transport and General Workers Union in Transport House for a peppercorn rent.”

It was also decided to send a State Registered Nurse for training. Mary Dolding, who worked for the Medical Department, was approached to train as the first paid hospice nurse and went to the UK to become a Macmillan nurse.

“Mary happened to be the Commissioner of Girl Guides as well, so when we needed to move to a bigger place Mary arranged for the lease on a hut in Devil’s Tower Road to be shared between Cancer Relief and the Girl Guides,” Marisa states, going on to say that Cancer Relief had much better fundraising potential than the Girl Guides and the charity raised money to build a prefab by St. Theresa’s Church which was called Lady Williams Centre. “The Girl Guides had upstairs and Cancer Relief had downstairs and there was a lovely big patio.”

Marisa, a nurse by training, came on board and along with others set up a Support Group for people affected by cancer. “We provided complimentary therapy, continued with financial assistance, lending equipment and we set up a bereavement group – there were various activities that were based down at the centre and other nurses from the medial department went to train in the care of people with advanced cancer.”

This continued for twenty-eight years until it became apparent that the building was getting very dilapidated and in 2011 the Gibraltar Government donated a beautiful colonial building in South Barracks Road, which is where the charity is to this day. 

“The building allowed for expansion of services to include a more comprehensive modern day care centre with provision for a larger number of specifically tailored clinics and therapies. Following a local survey the society decided that along with the fresh new building and enhanced services, a change of name was required, which is what we are known as today – The Cancer Relief Centre.”

Marisa says that they were able to set up a group called Living With and Beyond Cancer (LWABC) which is for people with chronic illness or who are cured and want to continue a relationship with the Centre.  “Patients come along and have an individualised assessment by a nurse to look at their specific needs because not everybody is the same, and then we try and fulfil what their support needs are,” Marisa comments. “It is not just the patient, we consider that the unit of care is the patient and family or their loved ones, they are significant people.”

Amongst the services available is Head Smart for anyone who has suffered hair loss as a result of cancer treatment with a specially trained hairdresser who can provide support and advice. There is also a full wig fitting and wig care service.

“Every year we support about five hundred individuals,” Marisa states. “At the moment in Centre Services we have two nurses and a Health Care Assistant, we also have an array of therapists, including beauty therapists, massage, art therapy and counselling, who have service level agreements with us.” 

There is also the Hospice Outreach Service (HOS) which is funded solely by Government. Marisa explains that the Charity has two income streams. “Everything that I have described above which we call Centre Services is funded by the community and by fundraising events.”

The Hospital Outreach Service established in 2019 provides hospice care for people in their home, in the evenings in shifts and over weekends. “We realised that it would be impossible for the Charity to fund that on charitable funds because we need to generate £400,000 for the Centre Services at the moment, and we also need £400,000 for the Hospice Outreach Services, so the second stream of income comes as a Government grant – so that is sustainable and that is where we are now.”

Although Cancer Relief has its own fundraising events, they also depend greatly on the generosity of others who raise money for the charity. 

One such fundraising event, in aid of the Cancer Relief 40th Anniversary Gibraltar and Centro Contigo in La Línea de la Concepción, is being held in July by former golf professional and European Tour player David Steele, well known in the golfing fraternity along the Costa del Sol and in Gibraltar. 

The David Steele Charity Golf Marathon Challenge 

This will take place on Wednesday 5th July 2023 to be held at the San Roque Golf Club Old Course. Sign up to play nine rounds of golf with David Steele in an Am-Am format with par as your friend. There are only twenty-seven slots available and the San Roque Golf Club Captain is an alternative option if more than twenty-seven slots are taken to play with David Steele. For non-members of San Roque Golf this is an unbelievable opportunity to play the Old Course. You can enter individually or as a team of three. Members €100 per round per person donation for the charities. Visitors: €172 per person (€72 green fee including buggy and €100 for the charities) or €500 per team. This is marathon speed golf and the idea is not to take any more than two hours per round.  

On Saturday 8th July 2023 a Champagne Texas Scramble will be held at the San Roque Golf Club Old Course in the following format: Teams of four players (enter individually or as a team). 

The package includes: golf, cocktail party, charity donation and prizes. Members €50 per person, or €200 per team. Visitors €157 per person, €628 per team. 

There is also a ‘Beat the Pro’ competition to beat San Roque Golf Professional Gonzalo Sanchez Garcia. €10 per person on the Par 3 12th Hole and a New Course Pro-Am on Saturday 8th July for a Pro and three amateurs. Visitors can enter individually or as a team for €100 or €300 per team. 

How to donate:

GO FUND ME: Donations can be made on the David Steele Charity Golf Marathon Go Fund Me page: 

Donations can also be made via Bank Transfer: 

La Caixa – Sotogrande, Account No. ES65 2100 9020 7922 0034 0191Name: David Thomas Steele

For more information contact David Steele: 

Your donations will go a long way to achieving David’s fundraising goal this year of €10,000.

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