Cancer in Kenya: Giving a real chance of recovery

by Faraja Cancer Support Trust
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Cancer in Kenya: Giving a real chance of recovery
Cancer in Kenya: Giving a real chance of recovery
Cancer in Kenya: Giving a real chance of recovery
Cancer in Kenya: Giving a real chance of recovery
Cancer in Kenya: Giving a real chance of recovery
Cancer in Kenya: Giving a real chance of recovery
Cancer in Kenya: Giving a real chance of recovery
Cancer in Kenya: Giving a real chance of recovery
Cancer in Kenya: Giving a real chance of recovery
Cancer in Kenya: Giving a real chance of recovery
Cancer in Kenya: Giving a real chance of recovery
Caroline and Brian at our center in Eldoret
Caroline and Brian at our center in Eldoret

When you first meet Brian, the first thing you notice are his eyes...huge,  round, and daring. When he fixes his gaze upon you, you cannot help but turn away. It is almost as if, he can read into your soul. 

Young Master Brian has not had the best of luck in his short three years on this earth. His mother passed away shortly after he was born, a situation that tore his family apart causing him to live with his paternal grandmother, Caroline.

"He has always been quiet." says his grandmother as she fondly straightens his sweater. Brian and Caroline have visited the Faraja wellness center in Eldoret which is located 421Kilometers from Kenya's Capital City. Faraja-Eldoret is situated within Kenya's second-largest Referral Hospital, the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH).

Brian's granny noticed that he had started walking funny, holding his right hip. At first, she thought he had fallen down but when he complained of constant pain on his right side, she followed her instincts and took him to see a doctor. Brian and Caroline live in the outskirts of Uasin Gishu County, some thirty kilometers from Eldoret town. There aren't a lot of specialists in the area and were only given pain killers at a local dispensary. As weeks progressed, Brian started crying a lot and pointing to his right hip. His grandmother did all she could traditionally to help (herbs, ointments) but the more she touched it the louder he would cry.

Caroline decided to seek a second opinion and go to the nearest District Hospital for assistance. After a battery of tests, Caroline was asked to rush young Brian to Eldoret town to MTRH to seek further treatment

"It is his kidney," The doctor said.

While at MTRH is when Caroline heard the word cancer. She at first thought the doctor was talking about her because, as far as she knew, children do not get cancer. But when the resident doctor at MTRH showed her a CT scan of his abdomen, it was right there in black and white, cancer had infected Brian’s right kidney and he needed to have emergency surgery to have it removed. Caroline survives on meager wages she earns from washing laundry. The cost of the operation was so hefty that the hospital management waved it. She was now faced with the challenge of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, a whooping Kshs 350,000 ($3,100).

Caroline was referred to Faraja’s wellness center in Eldoret where she filled a form for financial assistance and waited. After about two weeks, Maureen, our Eldoret administrator called Caroline and gave her the good news, Faraja would pay for Brian’s radiotherapy, his chemo would be catered by the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF). Caroline and Brian’s ordeal is just one of the many testimonies of hope that emanate from the support you give vulnerable patients by donating towards our medical fund.

Last week, during the Little by Little project, we managed to raise $589 that will go towards supporting our programs in Eldoret. We want to appreciate you for making sure that children like Brian are well enough to go back to school and continue living a full healthy life. The current statistics about cancer in Kenya stand at 42,000 new cases every year and 27,000 annual deaths. Among children, 1 out 10 has a likelihood to survive cancer in Africa compared to 7 out of 10 in the UK. Most of the children are diagnosed late due to weak referral systems, superstition, and lack of adequate funds. Thanks to your help, we can stand in the gap and help more men, women, and children receive much-needed care at the right moment.

Brian is better today because of you. On behalf of Caroline his grandmother and primary caregiver, we at Faraja would like to say thank you (Asante) for your support.

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Socially distanced support group 2020
Socially distanced support group 2020

On Friday 16th October, Faraja held its first physical Breast Cancer Support group meeting since the advent of the novel Corona Virus. Our Wellness Centre is usually packed with women who want to learn from our speaker of the day as well as commune with their friends and fellow cancer warriors. However this time it was different. Instead of the usual 50 plus ladies, we had 20, in strict adherence to WHO guidelines. Chairs were also separated to adhere to the 1.5-meter rule for social distancing and everyone wore masks. As we shared and laughed, one thought came through clearly, the importance of moving forward.

2020 has been a game-changer for everyone and charities have not been spared. The current pandemic has shaken the very nature of our existence; to socialize and relate. Despite this strangeness brought on by isolation, lockdowns and restricted movements, there has been a new reality emerging, one that our patients and caregivers know too well, the will to move forward. When someone is diagnosed with cancer, the journey is a mental struggle of taking one day at a time, one chemo treatment at a time, one side effect at time and sometimes, one recurrence at a time. This momentous cycle is similar to what we at Faraja are doing and have been doing since March 2020. We begun by moving most of our therapies online such as nutrition and counselling. This is so that patients can still benefit from a community of support that they have grown to love and depend on. From April 2020 we started our online webinars and saw about 600 patients from different countries access keynote speakers from across the continent. These topics of interest edified patients even as they stayed at home. You can watch one of our most popular webinar by Prof  Ellen Kampman here.

From May our online support increased to include lymphatic drainage, physiotherapy and various types of energy-based therapies like yoga, breathing, meditation and reiki. We gradually opened our Wellness Centres in Nairobi and Eldoret in July to allow for patient navigation, access to our resource library and our famous cup of hot lemongrass tea. Our will to move forward one day at a time has enabled us to reach more patients virtually and give much-needed hope to those who need it the most especially now when hope is audacious. 

We want to stand in the gap for patients and caregivers no matter the season. We want to make sure that when someone knocks at our door, the answer is always yes and not “let’s wait and see.” We also want to do our part in reducing the cancer burden in Kenya especially now when National Hospitals are epicentres for Covid-19 treatment, leaving patients at the mercy of private hospitals and the consequent high cost of treatment.  From April 2020 to date, we have supported 68 patients through treatment at a cost of Kshs 7, 431, 253. Out of the 68 patients, 15 are children below the age of 12.

Now is the time to join hands and ensure that patients not only feel safe but seen. Now is the time to move forward and not let a pandemic stop a movement of hope, a  journey of recovery, a sense of living and being. Covid-19 may have slowed the world’s economy but not cancer. We want to thank you for walking with us through all seasons and ask you to not only walk but stand with us now, more than ever by considering donating towards Faraja during this year’s GlobalGiving Tuesday campaign slated for 1st December 2020. By helping us move forward, we are propelling the men, women and children who feel like life has stood still.

2020 may have started on a grim note but with your help, we intend to end the year strong.

 Stay safe, take care and thank you for believing in us.

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Faraja's breast cancer support group in 2012
Faraja's breast cancer support group in 2012

Faraja is excited to celebrate its 10 year anniversary THIS YEAR.  It is our honour to share this with you as we reflect on some of our most memorable and impactful moments.

Gratitude and thanks

We have achieved far more than we could ever have imagined when we first opened the doors to our wellness centre in Nairobi at HCG-CCK, formerly Cancer Care Kenya. It is fitting on this milestone to express our sincere gratitude to the incredible stakeholders who have walked this journey with us and without whom none of what we have done would have been possible. These include patients, caregivers, therapists, volunteers, donors and fundraisers, trustees, staff, medical professionals and many more, our valued “Friends of Faraja." I would like to sincerely thank everyone for their tireless dedication and shared commitment to our cause.

Vision

Having faced breast cancer 16 years ago, I know that the power of companionship and support in undergoing treatment and the journey to recovery cannot be underestimated. This led to the genesis of creating a safe space, where free support services can be offered to cancer patients and their caregivers in an atmosphere that strives to bring comfort and strength in a time of adversity.

Progress and reach

Thanks to the generosity of our donors and the support of our clients, we are now a family of 7 permanent staff members, about 50 volunteers, 98 therapists and 11 Trustees (in Kenya and the UK). In 10 years we have launched more centres, created new programmes, formed new partnerships and continued to break new ground in the oncology space. Over 10,000 patients and caregivers have accessed complementary therapies, such as counselling, nutritional therapy, exercise, energy-based healing and more, to go alongside medical treatment. It is heartwarming to see that not only do the numbers accessing our services increase every year, but many are regular and continue to come to Faraja long after they have finished treatment.

Since 2010, the number of cancer support groups at Faraja in Nairobi has increased from 3 (breast, cervical, prostate) to 9 to include head and neck, blood cancers, young survivors, caregivers, Kipepeo Grief and parents of children with cancer at Kenyatta National Hospital. In the past 10 years we have had over 430 support group meetings with over 13,000 attendees. We have also organised special lectures, workshops and talks by professionals from Kenya and around the world, sharing knowledge and research in order to open our minds and perspectives on what can be possible. When we started our prostate support group, we had 5 meetings per year, each meeting averaging about 10 men in attendance. Now we have a prostate support group that meets monthly with an average attendance of 30. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and we are excited to share some of these testimonies over the next month through our social media platforms.

Faraja’s strategic plan recognises that as cancer treatment services available outside Nairobi grow so must our reach. To increase the number of people we can reach, we needed to increase both the number of centres and the work each centre does. In line with this objective in November 2018, we opened another Faraja centre in Uasin Gishu county at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital. So far our Eldoret centre has touched the lives of over 3,000 cancer patients and their caregivers through their four active support groups and daily complementary therapies: nutrition advice and counselling.

Crafts for Cure


In 2012 we started our art therapy program “Crafts for Cure” to give much-needed relief to the little warriors at Kenya’s largest referral hospital, the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH). We now offer art therapy sessions on Fridays and music therapy on Wednesdays in 7 different wards touching the lives of 430 children every week.  Since 2015 we have been giving milk and fruit to the children and their caregivers on Fridays. This is a total of 70,000 packets of milk and over 65,000 apples. We have also filled a gap for support by starting, 3 years ago, a weekly support group for parents with children with cancer at KNH. 

Generosity of donors and fundraising and Medical Support Fund


The reason we are able to continue to impact a growing number of individuals is due to the generosity of our many supporters, some of whom we will highlight in the days to come through our social media platforms. There have been concerts, balls, bike rides, dinners and even charitable bake sales. Our most notable campaign was the “Let’s Fight This Battle Together” in partnership with Nakumatt Holdings that raised a total of Kshs 21 million. Part of the funds raised was used to conduct free cancer screening, but most importantly it shaped the pilot phase of Faraja's Medical Support Fund: a corpus of funds which, when invested, would see over 50 cancer patients receive financial assistance for medical treatment, every year, forever. During the pilot phase, we supported 92 patients for medical treatment at a total cost of Ksh 12m and 88% of these patients are doing well. Our Medical Fund was launched in October 2017, when we reached our initial target collection of Shs100m. We have supported another 201 at a total cost of Ksh19m. 82% of patients supported are doing well. The setting up of our Medical Fund helps us achieve one of our key goals which is sustainability which is very much a key focus of the Board of Trustees.

We would have loved to celebrate with our Faraja friends in person but in the current circumstances that has not been possible. We are proud of what we have achieved in 10 years and the amazing people that we have been blessed to work within different capacities. Thank you for your invaluable support and for sharing our joy today.

                                                                                         
Yours Truly,
Shaira Adamali- Founding Trustee

Faraja volunteers and supporters in Eldoret
Faraja volunteers and supporters in Eldoret
Crafts for Cure use art as therapy for children
Crafts for Cure use art as therapy for children

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Young Yusuf
Young Yusuf

What started as an itch in the eye, in early 2019, grew into painful discomfort for young Yusuf. At first, his parents attributed the eye issues to dust since he lived in the North-Eastern part of Kenya, known to be arid and dusty. 

“No one ever imagined that this was cancer. We didn’t even know that there is the cancer of the eye,” exclaims Ibrahim, Yusuf's caregiver a friend of the family.

Yusuf’s parents took him to a local clinic to seek treatment but the pain in his right eye became intolerable. They sought help at the Mandera County Hospital and were finally referred to seek specialised treatment at the Kikuyu Eye Hospital in the outskirts of Kenya's capital Nairobi. It is then that  Ibrahim, who lives in Nairobi offered to take young Yusuf into his care, given that Yusuf’s parents lived in the village and could not afford to pay for the treatment nor afford transport and living costs for any length of time away from home.

At the Kikuyu Eye Hospital, tests revealed that Yusuf had cancer of the eye. He was put on treatment, but his condition did not improve.

“It was then that the doctor advised us to have his eye removed, his parents were shocked but soon accepted it for the sake of their son's health. ” Ibrahim says.  Amazingly enough, Yusuf’s health significantly improved after surgery and he went back home to Mandera, he even resumed school.

Sadly towards the end of October 2019, he started experiencing the pain in his right, now hollow socket, once again. His parents reached out to Ibrahim who arranged for Yusuf to travel on his own to Nairobi to see the doctor. The doctor recommended chemotherapy to stop the cancer from growing. "When I received the bill, the cost of the chemotherapy was prohibitive. I had spent a lot of my money already and could not afford the tests and treatment needed to make Yusuf better. I also had to factor in my family needs and came to the quick conclusion that I could not afford to maintain both.” exclaims Ibrahim.

There was nothing else to do than to start fundraising. It took Ibrahim a month to raise the money for chemotherapy treatment but they still had to raise funds for radiotherapy as his treatment was concurrent. 

“Yusuf’s parents are very poor, even affording transport to come to Nairobi is a problem for them, so I shared my concerns with the staff members of the institution that Ibrahim was having chemotherapy done, HCG-CCK Cancer Center. Their medical social worker advised him to seek support from Faraja.

“When I applied for financial assistance, I thought I would have to wait two years but in two weeks, we received the news that Yusuf's radiotherapy treatment would be fully covered by Faraja. Faraja came through!” Ibrahim says. “It has been a very long journey and honestly, this was the highlight.”

At this point, Ibrahim looks at young Yusuf, who all along has been a silent listener. For a ten-year-old, he is very quiet. “He has no one else to help with this,” Ibrahim says and adds that Yusuf was once a playful smart boy but he is not the same now.

“You can tell he has been through hell. He doesn’t talk much. He is very sad. Yusuf misses going to school. We leave it to God. He decides.” Ibrahim says. Yusuf’s parents were to travel to Nairobi to apply for the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) cover, but due to heavy rainfall earlier on in the year,  the road from their village to the nearest bus station caved in and they could not travel.

“The child is ours. We will do our best and God has helped us this far,” says Ibrahim encouragingly. " I do not understand the full diagnosis, but I am hopeful that with Yusuf’s age, the prospect of recovery is high."

Ibrahim and Yusuf
Ibrahim and Yusuf

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Rachel "Miles4Shillings"
Rachel "Miles4Shillings"

To our esteemed donors,

We are excited to share with you highlights of what we have been up to this year. As one of our valued donor, partner and friend, we cannot thank you enough in helping us in our mission towards giving hope, help and life to children and adults with cancer in Kenya. Thank you for being our champion and we hope you have also had a champion year!


2019 has been a year of partnerships and campaigns. We continue to raise funds and create awareness about cancer through our white water rafting challenge in June and our "Kenya's Biggest Coffee Mornings". Please check out our new websites for the two events here and here.  

We have been touched by the number of corporates and individuals who have gone the extra mile to ensure our programs are sustainable. A special thanks to Rachael Gitonga's "Miles4Kshs" campaign which raised funds through a series of runs, the climax being the Berlin Marathon in September.  

We continue to offer care and support to patients in Uasin Gishu county at our centre in Eldoret. We are thankful to our volunteers, the medical team at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital and the AMPATH team who we work closely with.  This year we also partnered with  "A Fresh Chapter" in their Eldoret Odyssey. 

We have also shared in this update moving testimonies from some beneficiaries of the Faraja Medical Support Fund. We are thankful to all our donors, friends and supporters, who have stood with us since the fund was launched on 12th October 2016. Thanks to your support, we can give patients and caregivers help that they need; at diagnosis, during treatment and beyond. Please read more here

Our crafts for cure program at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) has also received a lot of support. We are thankful to companies and individuals who have come together to support our program. Because of your generous and continuous support, we now offer lunch to patients undergoing chemotherapy at KNH every Friday and will soon start a library for the teens at level 8c. 

As part of our accountability strategy, our accounts are audited courtesy of RSM East Africa and are posted online. Please view our 2019 annual report here

We have new trustees joining us and we are excited to introduce them on our website. We would also like to thank Dr. Manu Chandaria for 9 years of dedicated service. He retired this year from our board earlier this year. 

Finally, as we begin the holiday season, the Trustees, Staff and the rest of the team at Faraja Cancer Support Trust want to extend their heartfelt gratitude to everyone who shared their incredible generosity with us by giving us their time, finances and participating in our programmes and events. Your support continues to make a huge difference in the lives of cancer patients and caregivers who access our services. We cannot do what we do without you.

On behalf of everyone we serve – THANK YOU!

Best Regards and Warm Wishes,

 

Shaira Adamali- Founding Trustee


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Organization Information

Faraja Cancer Support Trust

Location: Nairobi - Kenya
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Twitter: @FarajaTrust
Project Leader:
Olivia Shah
Nairobi, Kenya
$69,986 raised of $100,000 goal
 
397 donations
$30,014 to go
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