Norah is a middle-aged Kenyan woman who is full of life and good cheer. She is married with two school-going boys aged 16 and 10. Norah and her husband are both casual labourers who reside in informal settlements within Kenya's Capital city Nairobi. She washes clothes and her husband works at a construction site. Together they earn a combined purse of about $20 a day.
In April 2018, Norah arrived home from fetching water and realised she was bleeding. It was like normal menstrual flow but heavier. When it persisted for a few days, she decided to visit a nearby clinic for consultation.
“It must be the family planning method that you’re using.” the medical officer reported.
Since the flow was heavy, Norah was prescribed medication, which she faithfully took for four months but her bleeding did not subside and made her weaker. She decided to seek a second opinion and a third opinion about her condition...all pointing to her family planning method.
“You know, you cannot argue with the doctor, even when he prescribes the very same medication that almost a year later has not helped,” Norah says.
Determined to get to the root of the problem, she sought a fourth opinion from two referral hospitals. Her solace came from Mbagathi District Hospital in Nairobi.
“I begged them to do any test because I could feel that something was wrong with me!” Norah narrates with a tone of despair!
She was sent to the lab for an xray and a mass was found. "The doctor prescribed some medication that did not abate my situation. I remember going to the pharmacy to inquire if they had given me the right medication because I was not feeling any better."
Months later, even with the adherence to her medication, Norah noticed that things were getting worse. Not only was the bleeding irregular, but by 2020, she also noticed what she refers to as "a weird fluid" accompanied by svere back pain.
She went back to Mbagathi Hospital where she was eventually admitted for more tests. Her 3-week of hospitalization was taking a financial toll and sadly her eldest teenage son called her one day asking when she would return home because he was sleeping hungry.
“I asked myself many questions as I sat in the hospital. What is wrong with me? Why is no one telling me what is ailing me?” It was only then that they mentioned the word cancer. They referred her back to Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) to started treatment for cervical cancer which had sadly advanced to stage three.
Her husband held a mini fundraiser to help cater for her treatment costs which were growing astronomically. Norah, like, most Kenyans, relied on the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) which only paid for part of her treatment. She needed almost 400$ to complete her radiotherapy treatment, a sum that was too heavy for her humble household.
“At KNH, I was fortunate to find a caring social worker who told me that I could get help from an organization called Faraja.” Norah says. By then she was tired of being referred to different hospitals. “How do I get there when I could barely raise the fare to get here?” Norah asked.
She eventually managed to visit our offices in Nairobi praying that this would not be another goose chase. Norah applied for a medical grant from the Faraja Medical Support Fund (FMSF). Her application was successful and she had her entire radiotherapy treatment supported.
“I felt like I could fly! I had not been so happy in a long, long time!” she laughs as she recalls the good news.
On the day of this interview, Norah had just completed her final cycle of radiotherapy. The bleeding and discharge were long gone. “I feel like a woman, a human.” When asked what she would tell another woman going through the ordeal she had endured, Norah says, “Always trust what your body tells you. Doctors are human, they can make mistakes. Never get tired of seeking a third or even hundreth opinion. I did and it saved me. Misdiagnosis is not the end of life."
The Faraja Medical Support Fund is an endowment fund that supports patients through treatment for cancer. The fund is fully supported by donations from well-wishers like you. Cancer in Kenya is rated as the third cause of death in Kenya where 1 in every 7 Kenyans is diagnosed daily. Misdiagnosis is one of the common causes of late treatment and as Faraja, we have support groups and outreach programs to ensure that more Kenyans know about the risk factors and early signs of cancer. 30% of cancers are treatable when caught early.
As our valued supporters, we want to thank you so much for giving much-needed hope, help and life to women like Norah and to many others.
As we approach the end of the year, I am excited to share some news about what we have been up to at Faraja.
This moment of reflection brings with it immense gratitude for the men, women, and children who have done amazing things to help make the lives of patients with cancer and their loved ones a little more bearable. Our therapists give their professional services for free and our volunteers not only offer their skills but also their time to walk the journey of wellness with patients and caregivers. We are also blessed to have support from so many in the medical profession and beyond. Faraja is incredibly privileged to be a safe haven for so many patients and caregivers and for this, I am so very grateful.
Our Eldoret center located within the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) is also doing very well and I would urge you to read more about our achievements in the sections below. For example, between May 2022 and August 2022, 2,420 people walked into Faraja Eldoret center and accessed general services such as reading books from the library and having a cup of tea. This is an 11% rise from the 2,174 people who walked into the center between January and April 2022. This reflects the return of patients and caregivers to physical activities after COVID and also an increase in our reach, owing to, but not limited to, our partnership with various hospitals, medical social workers, and our social media platforms.
This is also a year of firsts for us. It was our first time organizing a walk in September to commemorate childhood cancer awareness month. We raised over Kshs 8 million in support of our programs for children with cancer. Read more about this in our newsletter below. Our medical fund continues to offer financial relief to patients and families who require medical grants for treatment. This year, we have supported 116 patients at a total cost of Kshs 8,167,539. Out of these, 19 are children below the age of 18 years.
We have also continued to visit the children at Kenyatta National Hospital( KNH) twice a week for a combination of music and art therapy. We are grateful for the support we receive from the management and staff at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) and the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, in Eldoret.
Patients and caregivers are our who, but it is our well-wishers and donors that make up our how. You are an essential piece of the puzzle that allows us to give hope, help, and life to so many. Thank you for raising funds for us, sharing our posts on social media, telling people about us, and reading this newsletter.
Let me conclude by quoting Philosopher James Stanford, "Health is a state of the body. Wellness is a state of being.”
Wishing you and your loved ones happy holidays and the best for 2023.
18-year-old Gacore, a teenager from DRC Congo was full of hope for a new life as a refugee in Uganda. But even the experience of being a refugee would not have prepared him and his family for the long trip that fate seemed to have planned.
Gacore first started experiencing pain inside his neck, which he thought was a case of a temporary stiff neck due to bad sleeping posture. But the pains persisted even with neck massages. He chose to ignore it which was a terrible mistake because the pain not only worsened but also progressed to the extent that he could no longer look over his shoulder or make the slightest of a turn with his neck.
As stubborn as the legendary teenager, Gacore still kept silent about his pain and continued to hope that it would somehow disappear. "When you are a refugee, you do not mumble about pain. You bare even the slightest discomfort because you do not have the luxury of dealing with it. Our basic needs are food...anything else is a luxury, even medicine." said Gacore who came for the interview with an interpreter. His native tongue is not English nor is it Kiswahili. He was however eager to get his story across and asked his nephew to accompany him in case he got tongue-tied. Luckily he did not.
Reluctantly, he mentioned the swelling to his brother, who was with him in Uganda. The brother quickly summoned his mother from DRC to come "See Gacore" whose physical appearance was beginning to change. The day his mother arrived in Uganda, she flung her arms around her head and declared in French, “This boy is not well!”
Gacore's mother insisted that he needed medical attention and since she was planning to travel to Kenya, she brought Gacore with her. They were referred to a specialist doctor, who, after the check-up referred them to Kenyatta National Hospital. Kenya's Largest Referral Hospital. After a series of tests, he was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus (throat). It would henceforth take the effort of both family and friends to get him treatment.
Despite rallying the Kenyan and Ugandan refugee community, getting young Gacore the necessary cancer treatment was proving impossible. He is not Kenyan and does not possess a Kenyan identification card. It, therefore, became a challenge to get him subsidized cancer care through the National Hospital Insurance Fund.
"There is a small community of refugees from DRC in Kenya. They are also struggling to make ends meet. They did what they could for my tests but when it came to treatment..." Gacore stifles a whimper and looks aside. The memories of his cancer journey became too painful for him. After a drink of water, he continued his narration.
One of his mum's friends mentioned seeing a television feature about a cancer center in Parklands that helps people with cancer in Kenya for free. With his brother now with him from Uganda, they went out on a limb and took a public transport van ( called matatu) to Parklands and asked about us. Luckily he was directed straight to Faraja's wellness center within HCG-CCK Cancer Centre.
“I met a lady called Hellen who asked me to fill some forms and take them to my doctor. Something inside me awakened. I had renewed hope. I finished Hellen's assignment in a day and was back at the center with my duly filled forms. I was then told to wait."
His mother needed to go back to DRC and left him in the hands of Moses his 19-year-old nephew who brought him for the interview.
During the entire interview, Moses sat silently, but when Gacore talked about Faraja, he chipped in. “We all thought we would lose Gacore. We would go to bed not sure that he would be alive when we woke up.” Moses speaks quietly, looking at Gacore as he explains, “He was very sick, but Faraja paid for his treatments and injected life afresh in him.”
“I am just grateful. So many people helped me.” Gacore says and confirms that he is no longer in pain and is looking forward to starting school. “I want to be a mechanic, or machinery engineer.” Gacore smiles with renewed hope. “We can’t repay Faraja; we just pray that the people behind the organization will experience God’s abundant blessing.” Moses says, to which Gacore adds, “I pray for all of you, Dr Adash of HCG-CCK, the people at the offices, counselors, all of you.”
Gacore is one of the beneficiaries of Faraja's Medical Support Fund (FMSF) which has financially assisted patients through treatment from October 2017 to date. A total of 500 patients have been assisted at a total cost of Kshs 50 million ($422,000)
This week is GlobalGiving's Little by Little Campaign and we are excited to take part. A big win for us would be if you can come on board and support us by donating a gift of any size to our campaign. GlobalGiving is matching funds up to $50.
Your support is pivotal in funding what we do. As a charity, we pride ourselves on being transparent with our funds and how we use our money. To see our audited annual reports please click here.
Below is a highlight of some of our services.
Faraja in Eldoret – We started in Uasin Gishu County at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) in November 2018. So far we have signed up over 2,000 patients and work closely with the hospital’s management. We offer free counseling, nutritional therapy, and exercise and have four regular support groups. We plan to add more therapies to meet the growing need for psycho-social support in Eldoret. We have started giving milk and fruits to the children hospitalized in the Paediatric Ward (Shoe4Africa).
Medical Assistance – The Faraja Medical Support Fund (FMSF) was launched in October 2016 and achieved its target of raising Shs100m within a period of 24 months. This includes just over Kshs10m for the Fund in memory of Natalie Havelock which supports young mothers with breast cancer. Income from the fund of Kshs100m allows us to support treatment for over 100 patients every year forever. In the Pilot period,pre-October 2017, we supported 86 patients at a cost of Kshs9,924,120 and 90% of these patients are presently doing well. Since October 2017 we have supported 412 patients at a total cost of Kshs 41million and 84% of the patients are doing well.
Increased Support - It is our aim to increase programs that will add value to patients, especially during the current pandemic. For this reason, we have increased our online support to include webinars and online therapies. We not only offer lunch to chemotherapy patients at Kenyatta National Hospitals’ clinic 23 but we also distribute milk and fruit to 5 including Level 9 pediatric wards.
To support us during April's GlobalGiving campaign, click the link below
As always, your support is warmly received and appreciated.
Cindy- Fundraising Manager
The devastating impact of Covid-19 is undeniable. It has affected the people we support, the environment we operate in, and our organization. The implications of lockdowns and social distancing meant that parts of our face-to-face support had to stop, fundraising events were cancelled, and our income sadly decreased.
When it was dark, we had a group that shed much-needed and appreciated light that touched the lives of all cancer patients and caregivers who needed us the most, despite the pandemic. THAT IS YOU!
YOU showed us great kindness by going over and above to help raise funds to support our services, even when it was challenging for them to do so. From supporting walks, bike rides, marathons and runs, even making bath bombs! We have been so touched by the goodwill shown by you and we can only account it to our mission and vision of being a safe haven accessible to anyone affected by cancer.
You have empowered us to adapt quickly to new challenges and constraints. Thanks to their support, we created new programs to help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation in adults and children. Please read more about our diversional therapy for children with cancer in this newsletter.
Despite the challenges, from January 2021 to date, we have signed up 1,115 patients in Nairobi and Eldoret to receive vital emotional and practical support at our wellness centres. Through our medical fund, we have offered treatment grants for 107 patients at a total cost of USD 9,573. Out of the 107, 19 are children below the age of 18 years. We have also visited the children at Kenya's Largest Referral Hospital Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) 45 times this year (6 times on Wednesday’s for storytelling and 35 times on Friday's for art therapy). This is in spite of the heightened movement restrictions enforced by the Ministry of Health. This gave hope to the children at a time when there was a lot of uncertainty and fear. At Kenya's 2nd largest referral hospital, Moi Teaching and Referral, we gave 900 packets of milk and 900 apples to the children this year, thanks to the outpouring of support and goodwill from donors like you.
We are confident that we will emerge from this unprecedented time more effective in our work. We have never been more determined and committed to making sure people living with cancer and their caregivers get the support they need and at the right time. Thank you to our supporters, partners and friends for the vital part you are playing as we do whatever it takes to help people living with cancer live their lives as fully as they can. This newsletter is dedicated to you.
Giving Tuesday is in two weeks and we are asking you to help us end the year strong by taking part and donating to our charity. All donations will be matched and it’s a great way to end your Thanksgiving weekend. Remember no amount is too small and all proceeds will go towards supporting children and adults with cancer in Kenya. It is the ONE day that can make a difference!
Thank you once again, stay safe and positive always.
Cindy Ogana- Fundraising and Communications
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