The Ambulance Wish Foundation

The Ambulance Wish Foundation is an organization based in the Netherlands, with a mission similar to that of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The well-known Make-A-Wish Foundation grants wishes to kids with life-threatening and terminal illnesses. These wishes are often extravagant and sometimes seriously awesome, like when San Francisco was transformed into Gotham allowing a young boy to be “Batkid” for the day. The Ambulance Wish Foundation (AWF) grants slightly less eye-catching wishes, but I think they are just as heartwarming. The AWF was founded by Kees Veldboer, an ambulance driver. One day he was transporting an older patient and asked him if there was anything he wanted to see while they were out before taking him back to the white-washed walls of the hospital. The patient requested to see the Vlaardingen canal, so Veldboer let the patient sit outside the canal in the sun and wind until he was ready to leave. This event led to the foundation of the AWF.

The AWF brings peace and joy to people in their final days. The foundation believes “positive end-of-life experiences are far too important to pass up.” They have over 230 volunteers, including highly trained medical staff and custom-built ambulances, and they have fulfilled almost 7,000 wishes. The article I read regarding the AWF included photos of the patients fulfilling their final wishes. These photos are heartwarming in their simplicity. The AWF specializes in older people. These people have often lived full lives, so their wishes are much more simple than those of kids who have just begun to live. The wishes include things such as seeing a favorite painting, watching dolphins, standing on the beach, seeing a grandchild, attending a granddaughter’s wedding, visiting a best friend’s grave, or my favorite, enjoying an ice cream cone with a loved one.

(Photo from , author, Evan Porter)

Another wish came from a woman who just wanted to see her home one last time. She asked to be taken to her living room where she sat peacefully for hours, looking around, most likely reminiscing on the memories and experiences from her life that had occurred in one small room.

These wishes make you realize, as cliché as it is, the importance of the small things in life. As the author says, perhaps the things we will remember at the end of our lives won’t be the extraordinary moments and things, but the ordinary ones- “the wallpaper in the house we grew up in, a sunny day spent on the water, or those little everyday moments spent with the people we love most.”

While it is incredible to read what Make-A-Wish does, the simplicity and warmth of the AWF is equally heartwarming. After reading about the many elderly who spend their final days in a hospital or a nursing home, it was lovely to read about these final days which I’m sure, made for good deaths.

2 responses to “The Ambulance Wish Foundation

  1. I really enjoyed reading this article and seeing the photos of terminally patients enjoying their last wishes. It is such a simple yet thoughtful way to deal with death and all its difficulties. While reading this article though I could help but compare this sort of end of life care to the end of life care that exists in the United States, especially after watching the documentary “Facing Death.” Within hospitals and hospice care, it seems at though we try to cope with the physical aspects of a dying person’s experience rather than the emotional aspects. We pump morphine to abolish pain and “pray for comfort” instead of taking our loved ones to the beach or simply sharing an ice-cream cone with them. I find this really disappointing and I think it reflects on America’s tendency to often times over-medicalized the natural process of death. I think the Ambulance Wish Foundation is an incredible organization and perhaps having something like it in the United States could help shift our focus and result in more “good” than “bad” deaths.

  2. By increasing the quality of life during the last period of life, charities like AWF provide necessary closure. I agree that the final days of these patients are refreshing, compared to the many elderly who spend their final days in a hospital or a nursing home. While AWF cannot reach everyone who needs them, the comprehensive picture documentation they give on their website for each wish fulfilled is very uplifting. I’m glad that these types of charities are popular and demand for them is increasing around the world. AWF seems to be planning to expand with another branch in England. Even if these wishes are less extravagant, I expect that they’re still serious logistical hurdles to work through. As people usually wish to revisit places, which hold symbolic value from their youth, these places are sometimes not within the Netherlands. In the last 3 years, impressively they’ve fulfilled almost 7,000 wishes. While there are other charities that provide wishes to the bed-ridden, AWF is unique in that they provide the safety of full ambulance support. This probably couldn’t be done without great organizational leadership, hundreds of volunteers all across the Netherlands, and the support of sponsors. Along with collaborating with the Netherland branch of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, AWF seems to be a part of a loose network of charities. Furthermore, they’re extremely transparent with their finances, by follow Netherland’s strict criteria for charities, the CBF Quality Mark, and making open to the public their annual tax reports. Overall, they’re probably a good charity to donate to.

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