Where Hope, Help & Healing Meet
HOPE Child Cancer Care Foundation was founded in 2016 as a result of a personal incident in Haris Kattakath and his wife Suhada’s life. They were in the U.S. on a family trip and on the day they were to return back home, their 10-month-old son Mohamed Naazim began presenting with a sudden unexplained loss of balance. In a shocking turn of events, the young boy was diagnosed with ependymoma, a form of pediatric cancer affecting the brain.
Feeling the pain of Cancer
Haris, until then, always thought of cancer as something that you read or hear about, but not something to happen to someone you know. The diagnosis came as a complete shock to the family. Initially, they figured that they would be back home after his treatment within a week or so, considering that they hadn’t first-hand encountered the challenges that came with cancer on the patient and the patient’s family. This is when they felt the unbearable pain of cancer.
Their journey began shortly after with the initiation of treatment in the U.S. in the St Jude children’s hospital specialising in the research and treatments of childhood cancer, postponing their return by a year.
Over the course of his treatment, they were put up in an area they were unfamiliar with. Many people reached out to help Haris and his family, offering all the support that they could. The hospital provided everything they needed in terms of treatment but the helping hand they received from the people around them highlighted the importance of support to the cancer patient’s family.
On their return back home, they decided to use the gratitude they felt for the helping hands they received, to reach out and give back to the community. They did the groundwork and conducted extensive research, identifying the gaps, speaking to doctors, NGOs and affected families dealing with childhood cancer.
Finally, in 2016, HOPE Child Cancer Care Foundation was born. HOPE’s current board of Directors consists of the organisation’s Chairman Haris Kattakath, Suhada Pottayil, Mohamed Shafi, Dr Sainul Abdeen, Jojo Kanjirakadan, Riyaz Kilton and Zerin Boby.
The vision that HOPE foresaw as an organisation was to increase the survival chances of childhood cancers. Over the course of their research, they realised that in India, the paediatric cancer survival rate was under 50%, a large drop as compared to that of 80-90% in Western countries.
The major factor for this discrepancy was India’s lack of hygiene in the living conditions during the treatment, leading to fatal secondary infections. It is this along with a few other factors that HOPE Child Cancer Care Foundation focuses on improving, to directly improve the survival rate in India.
HOPE Homes, the first of its kind in Kerala, has fully furnished hygienic housing with individual rooms and qualified staff.
The first HOPE home was started in Calicut, where a second one was built and has expanded to Thalassery, Mukkom and Cochin too. These homes are in close proximity to government hospitals offering paediatric cancer treatments and provide medicines, nutritional supplements and food as prescribed by the doctors.
All of the sensibilities that one would expect from their own home are part of HOPE Homes’ agenda- a safe, secure, hygienic, child-friendly atmosphere that is well-equipped and filled with positivity. This is an absolutely new concept introduced to Kerala which an immediate need was recognised for.
They involve the parents in activities like art therapy along with psychological counselling. The occasional visits from young social work volunteers add colour to the lives of these children and parents going through a tough time. They also offer HOPE Education through home-schooling with expert educators and counsellors, to those in need.
HOPE Clinic offers two main services- healthcare and psychological counselling.
The Doctors with HOPE give expert medical opinions to the family and give proper advice on the availability of medical facilities within Kerala and outside the state. They help families in need to apply for government aid and assist them in getting expert medical opinions and referrals. They offer to counsel families who are dealing with post-traumatic stress from the weighing down of spirits from tough childhood cancer treatments.
HOPE Care is focused on providing child-friendly care in hospital setups and providing nutritional supplements and sanitation products to the wards. It takes away from the dreary clinical setting of hospitals making them more kid-friendly with toys and recreational activities. In addition to this, HOPE Care also conducts awareness, conferences and early diagnosis camps to raise the general public’s awareness regarding pediatric cancers.
HOPE in the Middle East
This is one of the extensions of HOPE driven to create awareness among UAE residents regarding pediatric cancer, its treatment modalities and survival possibilities. It functions as an information center for pediatric cancer in the UAE, guiding parents on the best treatment options for every form of pediatric cancer across the globe.
HOPE in the Middle East has the best multilingual volunteering team alongside their experienced healthcare professionals to offer guidance to families facing the weight of an upsetting cancer diagnosis.
HOPE beyond Leukemia
HOPE beyond Leukemia is a new project to support children diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) throughout their care, treatment, and healing. The HOPE team assists families that have been affected by childhood cancer financially, emotionally, and medically, working to ensure the best treatment for the children.
All children that are selected for the project will undergo treatment at a HOPE authorised hospitals to ensure that they are provided with the best possible treatment as per the agreed International Cancer treatment protocol. Each child is individually supported by the HOPE and reviewed by the internal medical team, led by an experienced pediatric oncologist to ensure that the right measures are taken at the right time. Throughout the course of treatment, children and their families will have access to other relevant resources, such as HOPE Homes and counselling sessions too.
Bundle of HOPE
Bundle of HOPE is a novel initiative introduced in Calicut Medical College in 2017 and later introduced in Malabar Cancer Centre in Thalassery, wherein a bag of essentials is distributed to the family of children admitted to the pediatric oncological facility of Hospitals. The Bundle of HOPE provides the basic necessities for the children and the family to get past a few days in the unknown environment. This is HOPE’s way of assuring that HOPE is around to help them. Hundreds of ‘Bundles of HOPE’ have been distributed to date and have been met with grateful smiles.
There are numerous testimonials and stories from families whose lives have been touched by HOPE through the gruelling period of their young children battling cancer.
This article has been written by Neha Nambiar.