Hero in You – Celebrating the survivors; Supporting the fighters; Honoring the taken

CANCER – 6 letters, one small word.


But for some it means the difference between life and death. For some, it means never finishing school, never passing their scholarship exam, and never getting the chance to grow up.


For children who are struggling to survive cancer, the road is always difficult, often painful, and never straight and narrow. Though they may be small, they are strong, brave and mighty; they are truly superheroes in real life.


Honoring the month of childhood cancer awareness, our club decided to go gold during September, symbolizing not only raising of awareness, but helping broken hearts heal and giving brand new hope to kids fighting cancer and their families. 


Thus, we carried out the Project “Hero in You”, which was centered on the Children’s ward of the National Cancer Institute, Maharagama. 


“Hero in You” was our attempt to brighten the lives of some truly special individuals to the best of our capacity and a tribute to each and every one of the little heroes who won the struggle, who are still fighting, refusing to let cancer win and little ones who were taken in the midst of their battle. 


Phase 1 – Counseling session
The life of every parent with a child fighting cancer becomes a roller coaster of emotions. From the very moment that they learn of the disease, as they go on from doctor’s appointment to appointment, watching their once playful child confined to beds, therapy and medicine, their once bright eyes losing their spark; these parents spend countless lonely nights sitting by their child’s hospital bed, looking out the window at the concrete buildings that have become so familiar to their eyes wondering just how the world outside goes on as normal while they are trapped and tormented by the monster that is childhood cancer. The cruelty of cancer does not stop at the child, but spreads to friends, siblings and especially parents, holding their happiness hostage. 


As the first phase of the project, a counseling session targeting afore mentioned parents and caretakers of terminal cancer patients was conducted on the 9th of September 2016, from 3.00 pm onwards at the CCC House, Maharagama, with the aim of offering them emotional and psychological support so that they can sustain their own little super hero. 


With more than forty participants, the session started off with a brief introduction to our club, the project, our purpose and our Keynote Speaker for the day, Dr. Nayanananda Kumaranayake, a psychiatrist and lecturer in child psychology and psychiatry, who is currently practicing as a Clinical Psychiatrist at the Kiribathgoda Base Hospital. 


The rest of the session was carried out by Dr. Kumaranayake and was certainly beyond commonplace counselling sessions, as the doctor managed to get everyone’s focus and attention by tending to profound issues and referring to genuine cases that he has encountered in his career.


Line-up of the two-hour counseling session outlined the psychological impact of cancer on children, approaches to deal with psychological distress in parents and the significance of Palliative care. Parents were equipped with clear comprehensible information to help them settle on life saving decisions, offering the necessary emotional support to cope during the challenging time period they are confronting. As a value addition to the session, parents were given the opportunity to approach the doctor for individual counseling according to their prerequisites.


The program was brought to an end by conducting a sing along session where, both the children and parents sang a couple of songs along with our club members. A very special thank you goes out to Dr. and Mrs. Kumaranyake who helped us coordinate the counseling session with ease.


Phase 2 – Fun day session
10th of September 2016 was certainly a day of fun, entertainment and hope for our little heroes, their respective caregivers and our club members, as the most anticipated Phase 2 of “Hero in You” was brought to life at the Play house of National Cancer Institute, Maharagama. This session included a simple programme designed to join the battle against childhood cancer and provide hope to those who needed it the most.


First in line was an introduction to our club and our undertaking with project “Hero in You”, outlining our programme for the day. It was a time for the little ones to get away from the injection needles and the nausea-inducing chemo treatments for a couple of hours, join us in having fun and bringing about the hidden hero within themselves. With the specific end goal to make them feel that they too were heroes fighting their very own battle with the villain “Cancer”, all the children were presented with beautiful blue and red capes to wear. We also had Rtr. Dinithi Cooray dressed up as Sleeping Beauty and Rtr. Chathun Heiyanthuduwa suited up as Batman and were presented as a small surprise for our little heroes. 

The little heroes were then encouraged to show off their drawing and coloring skills. The ambience was vibrant and alive as our members had a lovely experience drawing and interacting with the tiny artists. 


Next came the entertainment session where things were brought to a peak in the company of well-known TV presenters, Sachini Nipunsala and Madhawa Wijesinghe and Sirasa Super Star singer, Janaka Sampath. Our little heroes were all smiles as they waved their coloured balloons in the air, singing along to classic favorites like “Konda Namagena” and “Kotu Watichcha Punchi Sarama”.


Time flew by in a blur of happiness and soon, it was time for our little heroes to head back to their wards. As we distributed gift packs and hats and caps for all the participants, seeing the little ones smile and excitedly clap their hands, was a feeling that cannot be put into words. 


Princesses, superheroes and members of our club were glad to be a part of one amazing day, with some truly inspiring little ones. Our gratitude goes out to Sachini Nipunsla, Madhawa Wijesinghe and Janaka Sampath who took time off their busy schedules to spend the day with the little heroes fighting cancer.


Phase 3 – Make a wish
A hospital stay can be traumatic for a young child. Even simple medical procedures can be incredibly scary for anyone, but our small heroes undergo critical treatments such as painful chemotherapy and radiation treatments every day, continuing to battle on; fighting for their lives. “Make a wish” was an initiative to soften the impact and bring smiles to their little faces. 


Our club members visited the hospital; talking with the children, finding out their wishes, and obtaining permission of their parents to embark on a social media campaign to find a way to make these dreams come true. From the small monk who wanted a remote control car, to the girl who wanted a toy gun and the teen who wished for a bicycle more than anything else, each dream was unique and beautiful. 64 wishes in total were collected and we were successful in making all of them come alive within just two weeks, concluding our crusade on the 24th September 2016 at the National Cancer Institute, Maharagama, where we distributed all the gifts.


Our gratitude goes out to all the sponsors for offering their generous donations which helped us create magic and make dreams a reality. We hope that together we were successful in fulfilling the humble yet, important wishes of our little heroes, helping each child find a sense of comfort while in the hospital and offer the assurance that the world does care. 


Marking the successful completion of project “Hero in you”, we would like to extend our sincere gratitude to Dr G. Wijesuriya, Director National Cancer Institute, Maharagama, Dr. B. I. Kurukulasuriya, Deputy Director, National Cancer Institute, Maharagama, Ms. Menaka Aluthge, Counselling Unit, National Cancer Institute, Maharagama, Flexus Labs and to each and every individual who contributed their time and effort to bring happiness and to brighten the lives of our little heroes.


All in all, it may be just a three-day project yet it will definitely last a lifetime in our hearts. Priceless, is the word that best describes the rare experience we encountered.

Written By-

photo Sarala Gunawardena
Club Member 

  
photo Rtr. Harindi Jayasuriya
Co-Director Community Service 2016/17

  

Clicks By- Flexus Labs

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