Was that 2018 or a bullet train?!
I am sure that is how many of you have experienced 2018 thus far. But for many others that is not their experience. When a child, teenager, mom or dad gets told that they or their child has cancer it is like everything suddenly goes into slow motion. You hear what the doctor or the CHOC Social Worker is saying, but you cannot really process it – you are still stuck on the word “cancer!”
I experienced this for myself a few weeks ago when I was told “your wife has advanced colon cancer.” I wanted to shout back at the doctor and say, no, stop staying this to me – this cannot be about my wife. That was hard enough, so I can only imagine how hard it must be for a parent to be told their child has cancer. As children are vulnerable, it is always harder for us to see them go through pain and suffering.
Through CHOC, thanks to our wonderful staff and many amazing volunteers, we can at least say that for children and teens fighting cancer, and their loved ones, we have made the journey easier and have provided encouragement and hope. Hope – that’s an important word…
So much has happened over this last year. Here are just some of the highlights:
- We commissioned an outside, professional and highly regarded company, Ask Afrika, to conduct a study to assess if CHOC and our programmes have had a real impact on our beneficiaries. The study was conducted among all of our stakeholders (teens, parents, family members, donors, volunteers, medical professional and others). We are very pleased to say across all stakeholder groups we scored very highly, an average of 90%. For the direct beneficiaries (survivors, teens and parents) 98% stated that CHOC’s support and services had a very good to excellent effect on their fight against cancer. (A full report is available on request.)
- Our CHOC social workers provide a vital service in the paediatric oncology wards. We started the year with 7 social workers and social auxiliary workers in five wards, and ended the year with 11 in 13 paediatric oncology wards in the country, with another two placements for two new wards in process (some smaller units share a social worker). This will mean that CHOC will then have a social worker in almost every single paediatric oncology unit in the whole country!
- While we ended the last fiscal year in a moderate deficit, this was not due to reduced effort around fundraising, but due to the fact that we significantly increased the extent and reach of our programmes. You will see from our statistics that we are serving more children and family members in more ways than ever before.
- We were very excited to have opened a new home in Pretoria (the Northern Region) and in Cape Town (next to Red Cross hospital) this year! This means that CHOC now has 13 accommodation facilities throughout the country, ensuring that every single child, teen, parent and family member that needs accommodation close to a paediatric oncology unit has access to a safe and secure home away from home.
- Almost two years ago CHOC was asked to be an Anchor member of CCI (Childhood Cancer International) Africa. Over the last year CHOC has played an increasingly significant role in assisting the growth in CCI Africa and other sister childhood cancer and parent organisations in Africa. CHOC hosted the Africa Regional Workshop in Johannesburg, and soon we will be training social workers from other countries in Africa.
- Our Awareness Training programme has gone from strength to strength, and is now being implemented throughout the county. Over 25,000 medical and medically related professionals have been trained in the early warning signs of childhood cancer and the referral process. No doubt, through this, lives have been saved.
So, all in all, despite a tough economic climate and the pressures from rising demands for our support and services we have much to be grateful for and to celebrate. However, the rising demand for our services also means that we need your support more than ever!
I would like to deeply and sincerely thank each and every one of you who have generously and faithfully supported us over the past year. If you have ever visited one of the wards we work in; visited a CHOC house; or met any child, teen or parent benefitting from CHOC services, you will know what a massive difference our work makes.
Thank you all, have a great festive season, and Merry Christmas!