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Marisa Desoiza Cancer Relief Chairperson explains the Charity’s beginnings

The charity was formed in 1983 by Lady Williams, wife of the then Governor Admiral Sir David Williams together with a team of health professionals and community leaders. The Gibraltar Society for Cancer Relief was registered under the Friendly Societies ordinance as Charity Number 38. The original idea was to open a hospice unit for people with advanced cancer but after exploring various options, the new committee decided instead to develop a palliative care service with a focus on community care and supporting patients at home.  The need for training a specialist hospice nurse was identified and so Mary Dolding went to UK to train in this area.  The Committee then opened a day support centre run by Maureen Stansfield, a nurse with hospice experience who was one of the charity’s founders. This opened a year later thanks to the Transport & General Workers’ Union who made a large room in Transport House available. It opened twice a week and was attended by small groups of patients with volunteers providing transport, meals, hand care and occupational therapy.   

In 1990, the Centre moved to the Lady Williams Centre in Devil’s Tower Road. Providing the opportunity to increase day support to three times a week with new facilities that included hairdressing, supervised bathing, hand care and aromatherapy. Other services included nursing equipment loan for patients in their homes and grants for those suffering financial hardship because of their illness. Over the years a cancer support group and a Hospice at Home nursing service were started. The first hospital palliative care nurse sponsored by the charity began work in St Bernard’s Hospital in 1998 and over this period four more GHA nurses went to UK to complete specialist training in caring for people with terminal illness.  The Lady Williams Centre was a temporary structure and the fabric of the building deteriorated considerably over the years. Therefore in 2011 the Government of Gibraltar kindly gifted a beautiful colonial building in South Barracks Road now known as the Cancer Relief Centre. Moving to the new building allowed the Cancer Relief to expand and grow into the wonderful Charity it is today. In 2017 Cancer Relief registered as a company limited by guarantee with the Registrar of Companies in Gibraltar.  

Bringing all these activities together and responsible for the development of the charity is our Chief Executive Gráinne McKenna who is accountable to our Board of eight volunteer Trustees.  Over the years, the Cancer Relief Centre has provided care for thousands of patients and families affected by cancer. Looking back we can see that we have come a long way since the early dreams of 1983. We are very proud of what we have achieved. We, together with other local cancer charities have worked consistently to improve cancer care and awareness in Gibraltar. We are forever grateful to the community for taking Cancer Relief into their hearts.   


Marisa Desoiza Cancer Relief Chairperson
Marisa Desoiza Cancer Relief Chairperson