Little Stars is a campaign set to inform and promote the value of paediatric palliative care for children with life-limiting conditions and for their families worldwide. It is produced by Melbourne and Tasmanian-based production company Moonshine Movies in collaboration with Al Jazeera Documentary, which will broadcast the one-hour film to over 30 countries.
Presented by acclaimed British actor David Suchet CBE, the series is currently being distributed by Flame Distribution, based in Sydney, London and now Athens. It showcases the stories of children and young people accomplishing the extraordinary in the face of serious illness and comprises a one-hour television documentary and 25 short films for distribution on television, online and on DVD.
It is estimated that 20 million children worldwide could benefit from children’s palliative care but access to services remains an issue (ICPCN). The Australian producers, Mike Hill and Sue Collins, visited Greece on a self-funded trip in order to make the country part of the worldwide campaign and help save Merimna, a philanthropic organisation in Greece, which is facing the prospect of closing one or more of its services due to a lack of funding as a result of the financial crisis.
The Australian team is already in Athens, filming the short documentaries to raise awareness of the Greek palliative care struggles.
“We are very pleased to be here in Athens with the team at Merimna,” Sue Collins tells Neos Kosmos.
“Now that we are witnessing first-hand the important home care service they are providing to families with children experiencing life-threatening illness, we are even more convinced that showcasing this work through Little Stars is of critical importance.”
The producers are even more motivated by the devotion of the team at Merimna who have been assisting with the filming.
“Both Alexia (nurse) and Spyridoula (nurse and service coordinator), came to Merimna as soon as it opened in 2010,” Sue Collins explains.
“They both have passion and dedication to children’s palliative care that began during their studies.
“It takes a very special person to work in this field and as palliative care is very new to Greece, it’s people like Danai Papadatou, president of Merimna, who educate and inspire others to take up this medical specialisation.”
On the day of the interview, Mike and Sue had just finished filming with a family that have been receiving home care from Merimna since their daughter Anastasia was eight months old and diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Anastasia is now two years old and is slowly losing mobility. She will never walk or talk and will have a shortened life, while she requires 24 hour care.
“The strong bond between Anastasia and her mother Roula was touching to witness – Anastasia just lies in her arms gazing up at her as Roula strokes her face,” Sue says.
“When asked what she loves most about her daughter, Roula replies without hesitation ‘everything’, and this says it all.
“We met Anastasia’s grandfather who shared his view that a grandchild is ‘twice your own child’ and he is very active in the family life, giving care and support in any way he can. Anastasia’s diagnosis has had just as big an impact on him as Anastasia’s parents.”
The Little Stars team witnessed first hand Alexia and Spyridoula assist with the ongoing medical needs and psychological support which makes it possible for Anastasia to live at home.
“If Anastasia and her family were not able to access home care, she would have to be in a hospital full time,” Sue stresses.
“This would be incredibly difficult for the family, her parents would have to split their time between the hospital, home and work, which would have a devastating impact on their older son Theo, who is now four years old.”
By being at home, they can live as a family and have as ‘normal’ a life as possible. Theo attends the local childcare centre, they go to the park, share meals together and have extended family close at hand.
“It is devastating to imagine the distress and hardship that would be faced by these families if Merimna were no longer able to provide this service,” Sue admits.
“The service is providing a critical level of support to help these families keep their children at home and enjoy their time together.”
Merimna is facing the prospect of having to close the Children’s Home Care Service in Greece due to lack of funding.
“Please help us to spread the word about Merimna and the critical services they are providing to families of children with life-limiting illness.”
To contribute to their cause and find out more about the project, visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/little-stars-greece