In the leafy neighbourhood of Plumstead, the staff of the Children’s Haematology Oncology Clinics (CHOC) welcomes visitors with open arms and open hearts. But CHOC is not a clinic, it’s a home. A haven for children who have been diagnosed with cancer and their family members who accompany them on their journey.
This non-profit organisation provides free accommodation, meals and transport for children and one relative during treatments. They also take special care to provide emotional support to the whole family. This is such a success that they have 13 accommodation facilities close to treatment centres across the country, two of which are in Cape Town.
“Many people don’t think about the fact that kids get cancer too,” says Marilyn Boltney, supervisor at the Tygerberg facility. As a leader figure, she explains how difficult it can get for the supervisors too. “I also get attached to the kids and their families even though I don’t mean to. But when they are in pain, I always have to be the strong one. The shoulder.”
At a Christmas lunch hosted by Highbury Media that Cape Town Etc attended with the CHOC residents, Justin (13) told us his favourite thing in the world is LEGO blocks. He had to take his festive reindeer head-band off after a while, because he can’t have too much pressure on his head after a recent operation. He has no hair, but as we sit down for lunch, gifts are exchanged and his face lights up – he got LEGOs!
Another little one who runs around is only two years old. His mom, Devodene, says he should now be cancer-free after his operation, and hopefully in full remission. She’s just waiting for one more test result. She is a single mother of three and had to quit her job to be with Bradwin. But she smiles, telling me how much comfort and support she has found in the community of others who are going through the same experience. “I am a strong woman,” she says as Bradwin squeals and reaches for a balloon.
Each of the CHOC homes have to raise funds independently, and welcome individual or corporate donors and once-off as well as regular donations. They are especially in need of linen for the bedrooms, so bedding is welcome. Anyone can also “adopt” a room, meaning a donor can commit to fund the expenses of one certain room that will see many children come and go.
Outdoor movie theatre, The Galileo Open Air Cinema, generously gifted these families free tickets to go and experience an outdoor movie over the holidays. What a great Christmas present!
It no longer suffices to look away. The brave and selfless caretakers of these homes put their heart and souls into helping others, but they can’t do it alone. To learn more or get involved, visit their website and like their Facebook page.
Pictures: Anita Froneman