History of Amitabha Hospice Service
The first hospice in NZ was the Mary Potter Hospice in Wellington in 1979. The first hospice in Auckland was the South Auckland Hospice in 1982. Then came North Shore in 1983. Ecie Hursthouse was a volunteer and area coordinator for the North Shore Hospice in their early days from 1986 to 1989.
Ecie was inspired by His Holiness Dalai Lama, whose teachings stress taking universal responsibility for those in need. Then another Tibetan Lama, Sogyal Rinpoche visited New Zealand in the late 1980s and he told of his work with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Sogyal Rinpoche explained how Buddhist psychology had much to offer in understanding death and helping the dying. As there was no volunteer hospice home care service in central Auckland at that time, Ecie approached her spiritual mentor, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, with the idea of starting a Buddhist based hospice service. Lama Zopa Rinpoche agreed that it would be very beneficial and gave the name Amitabha Hospice in October 1994.
In the following year, Ecie got together with a few other nurses and a lawyer and drafted the Charitable Trust deed. It was registered as Amitabha Hospice Service Trust (AK/689943) in 1995 and given tax exemption status by the IRD in 1996. With both the spiritual and legal base firmly established, Amitabha Hospice Service trained their first volunteers in Oct 1995 and in March1996.
Then in June 1996, AHS accepted the first referrals from social workers for practical home care and companionship for aged and terminally ill patients and their families in Auckland. Later that year Amitabha Hospice Service was accepted as a member of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) , a non profit organisation consisting of over 160 Buddhist centres of learning, meditation, healing and publishing around the world under the Spiritual Direction of Lama Zopa Rinpoche. In 1997, Amitabha Hospice Service became a full member of Hospice New Zealand. In 2007, Amitabha became an Affiliated Member of Hospice NZ. In 2011, Amitabha Hospice Service’s association with FPMT changed from member to affiliate.
Amitabha Hospice Service has trained over a thousand volunteers and serves families in all suburbs in Auckland and the surrounding cities of Manukau and North Shore. In September 2001, AHS bought a quiet property in Forrest Hill, Auckland for training, counseling, Reiki, massage, meditation and administration offices. In December 2005 that property was sold and 44 Powell St. Avondale was purchased. During 2008, a new administration office was built and a new 60 seat meeting room was created to facilitate ongoing support and education for patients, friends, family and other community medical providers. In 2014, Amitabha Hospice started a Tuesday morning ‘day-stay’ called “Cuppa and Company” which offers Reiki, games, music and lively conversation. In 2015, Amitabha Hospice started their second ‘day-stay’ programme on Friday mornings offering Art therapy. Amitabha Hospice continues to provide free home respite care to the aged and those with a terminal illness in greater Auckland as well as free private counseling to those with a terminal illness and the bereaved.