A good deed for our little champs – Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

WOWS Kids Fiji family and friends pose for a group shot. Picture: SUPPLIED

It is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

August 2021 is a Childhood Cancer Awareness month with a difference in Fiji. The COVID-19 pandemic brought about major operational changes at WOWS Kids Fiji (WKF) which we have embraced since 2020.

We know the reality that despite the pandemic, childhood cancer is not going away from Fiji. And we are fully aware of the rising emotional and psychological pressure on the parents of our little champs. Their childhood cancer journey has just become more strenuous in these challenging times.

For WKF, the economic situation reinforces the reason for our existence and that is to continue to provide a holistic support for our children diagnosed and living with cancer in Fiji. At the same time, we have an obligation to actively create awareness of the signs and symptoms of childhood cancer to help all parents, guardians, and caregivers of children.

Unlike past years, this year’s childhood cancer awareness month is being managed from the safety of our home bubbles. In normal times, August is when WKF would organise major fundraising events, fun activities for our children and their families and engaging in public awareness programs. With the lockdown in place, we are now going virtual on our social media platforms with the launching of all our fundraising events and awareness programs.

Already underway for our fundraising initiatives are our Great WOWS Walk (virtual walkathon), the Shave or Save Campaign and freewill donations in cash through our bank account or our Go Fund Me link or inkind.

All our fundraising campaigns are running right through till the end of December.

For the fi rst time ever, we have opened up our Resource Centre to accommodate our Paediatric Oncology team in administering the day-chemo-treatment for our little champs. This is expected to carry on throughout the lockdown period under strict COVID-19 safety measures.

The prolonged lockdown has resulted in many of our parents losing jobs thus adding to their burden of having to provide for their sick children and the rest of their family members.

Some have had to relocate to their villages for survival. WKF continues to provide for the transportation of our children from their homes to hospital or their nearest health centers, for treatment or review; and we also continue to cover the costs of medications or blood tests that are not available at the hospitals.

Food distribution by WOW volunteers. Picture: SUPPLIED

Since May, WKF has also expanded its support services to include the provision of monthly food and care packs for our little champs. It is an obligation we are committed to fulfil during these unusual and difficult times.

We are deeply grateful for the support from our partners, without whom we would not be able to successfully provide this extra service. Our little champs are a vulnerable group in the face of this pandemic and we are glad to be able to provide some additional assistance to help their parents.

We acknowledge that having strong partnerships with our friends various stakeholders is crucial in our journey.

We need these partnerships to be able to successfully have a wider impact in our communities as we champion the fight against childhood cancer in Fiji. We are grateful for our friends and partners.

What does WOWS Kids Fiji do?

WOWS Kids Fiji (WKF) works in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MOH) through the Paediatric Oncology Units in CWM Hospital (Suva) and Lautoka Hospital. WKF helps to provide the medical support needed by our little champs amongst other things. We drive fundraising initiatives year in and year out for this purpose.

Funds received through our generous donors (individuals and business houses) are dedicated to the following, every year.

Facilitation of access to medical treatments for children with cancer and supporting their families. These may include but not limited to the following;

  • Costs of medication, diagnostic tests that are not available at the public hospitals;
  • Transportation costs to and from hospitals for treatments and reviews irrespective of where they live;
  • Accommodation for families from outside of Viti Levu during treatment time. It includes additional support to parents from outside of Suva, while the child is admitted hospital. Financial assistance towards travelling expenses for overseas treatment (passport/visa
    application & airfares);
  • Capacity building for support persons caring for children with cancer; and
  • Other appropriate support deemed necessary by the Board.
  • Facilitate the furnishing of Paediatric Oncology wards for children with cancer. This includes purchasing of resources such as mattresses, TV, wheel chairs, etc. Special capital expenditures are considered subject to Board approval.
  • Raising awareness of the signs and symptom of childhood cancer throughout the year to
    overcome the stigma and discrimination surrounding it.
  • Provision of moral support through counselling, nutrition and finance literacy that will help families in their cancer journey with their children.
  • Provision of food and care pack supplies including weekly hospital visitations.
  • Provision of educational support and programs for children while on treatment in the wards.
  • Organising quarterly Family Fun Days for the little champs with their families including special events throughout the year.
  • Covering costs of transportation to help the Paediatric Oncology Units to facilitate the provision of palliative support for our patients at home.
  • Financial assistance towards funerals.
  • Where possible we support certain costs associated with the professional development of Paediatric Oncology staff who may need to attend conferences or workshops that will help boost the care of our children with cancer.

Danielle Baber, Gareth Baber and son Steffan Baber support WOWS Kids Fiji. Picture: SUPPLIED

Signs and symptoms of childhood cancer

The early detection of signs and symptoms of childhood cancer is critical as it increases the chances of survival. WKF is committed to its awareness campaigns regarding this in order to reach the wider communities around Fiji.

Our job is to effectively impart the knowledge about the issues surrounding childhood cancer and change the mindsets and attitudes of child caregivers. Late presentation of cases to the hospitals or health centers continues to be biggest challenge for us to overcome.

We want to educate and empower families in all communities in Fiji about the topic of childhood cancer so they can recognise triggers or early signs and symptoms and promptly take appropriate actions to address the situation. People need to know exactly where to go when they discover these
signs and symptoms and be persistent in pursuing proper diagnosis by the Paediatric Oncology
professionals.

WKF promotes possible early signs and symptoms of childhood cancer using the

“CHILD CANCER” acronym as outlined below:

C – Continued unexplained weight loss.
H – Headaches often associated with early
morning vomiting.
I – Increased swelling or persistent pain in
the bones.
L – Lumps or mass around the abdomen and
neck areas.
D – Development of excessive bleeding and
body rash.
C – Constant bodily infections.
A – A whitish colour in the eyes.
N – Nausea or vomiting
C – Continuous tiredness or noticeable
paleness.
E – Eye or vision changes occurring suddenly
and persistently.
R – Recurrent and persistent fever of unknown
origin.

We encourage everybody in Fiji to take heed of these childhood cancer signs and symptoms and help us spread the word. WKF cannot fight childhood cancer alone. It will take communities in Fiji to participate in our awareness initiatives or campaigns in order to have better understanding of how devastating cancer can be for children and their families. When communities come together, we can help these precious children live longer and healthier lives that they deserve.

Once you detect any of these signs or symptoms, please take your child immediately to
your nearest Health Centre or Health Clinic or Hospital.

If pain persists in your child or you are not satisfied with that initial medical assessment, then insist upon visiting our Paediatric Oncology Units at CWM Hospital or Lautoka Hospital or contact WOWS Kids Fiji on 7370147 or 8035657 or email us on wowskidsfi ji@gmail.com or send us a message through our Facebook page.

Support WOWS fundraising events 2021 — The Great WOWS Walk

  •  Online registration is available and if you are interested you may email us on  yvaanak@gmail.com or wowskidsfiji@gmail.com or send us a message on Facebook;
  • We launched our GWW online in June and we have had people registered and walked for WOWS in Australia, New Zealand and around Fiji. We are deeply grateful to the generous sponsorships that have been transferred into our bank account since then;
  • Registration is important as it formalises your pledge to raise a minimum of $100 as an individual or $500 as a group of 5 while walking 50km in 14 days; and
  • Your 50km can be done through walking, running, swimming, paddling, treadmilling, etc., whatever suits you. Use your mobile apps to track your 50km over the 14 days and send us pictures so we can share to encourage others to join;
  • Alternatively, you may challenge your friends and family members to register and walk for WOWS Kids as well.

WOWS Kids Fiji assists families with food rations amid pandemic. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Shave or Save Campaign

  • The SOS Campaign has always been our biggest and exciting fundraiser;
  •  We have some individuals who have signed up already since our launch in June and we are grateful for them;
  • If you are interested, get your Information Pack by emailing us on yvaanak@gmail.com or wowskidsfi ji@gmail.com so we can register you; and
  • The aim is to shave your head for a minimum of $1,000 for the children living with cancer in Fiji. Our Information Pack provides details of how to go about your fundraising

Freewill Donations in Cash and in-Kind

  • We are always ready to receive donations from individuals and business houses, in cash
    or in-kind, for our little champs;
  • Contact us on 7370147 or 8035657 or email us on wowskidsfiji@gmail.com if you want to make a donation in kind. We accept food items (dried goods only), care packs (sanitary,soap, toothpaste, diapers, wipes, etc.), clothes and toys, etc; and
  • For cash donations, we encourage you to make a bank transfer into our account and provide proper narration (full name) and email us your transfer/deposit slip and your contact details so we can issue your receipts. Our bank account details are provided below.

Name of Bank: Bank of the South Pacific
Name of Account: WOWS Kids Fiji
Account Number: 10416097
Swiftcode: BOSPFJFJ
Branch Code: BSP 069011

Please follow us on our WOWS Kids Fiji Facebook page for updates on events and awareness initiatives that will be rolled out this month of August and onwards.

  • Sina Kami is the founder of the Walk On Walk Strong (WOWS) Foundation. The views expressed are the author’s and  does not necessarily reflect the views of this newspaper.

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