On the eve of World Cancer Day, the fight against cancer is gaining public attention. The U.S. Government has announced a $1 billion fund to accelerate research in cancer cure. In India, a number of celebrities including Yuvraj Singh, Manisha Koirala, Lisa Ray have spoken publicly about their struggles with cancer. This year’s Padma awardee list included V Shanta, grand-niece of CV Raman, who has spent 40 years making cancer care affordable to the poor.
For the poor, the fight against cancer is a long struggle, from finding the right doctor to arranging finances for treatment. Patients from rural and tribal areas are forced to uproot their lives to come to cities for treatment as the local hospitals lack expertise. NGOs working in the field of cancer step in to facilitate their journey. Read about how they impact the lives of needy cancer patients:
Funds for treatment: While the greatest need is funds for treatment, most NGOs cannot provide the entire cost of treatment. A common intervention is to support costs of medicines, scans, radiation sessions and so on. Indian Cancer Society found that patients, alarmed by the high, recurring costs often stop their treatment after the first scan itself. They arrange for funds that cover the costs of the initial screenings and diagnosis, in addition to part-sponsoring funds during treatment.
Palliative Care: Palliative care refers to end-of-life services given to patients with a terminal illness. While the disease itself cannot be cured, enduring the pain is traumatic for patients and families alike. Palliative care gives patients relief, peace and dignity during their struggle. Care India Medical Society runs customised programmes ‘Vishranti’ and ‘Satseva’ for this purpose. Both programmes are free-of-cost for patients. CanSupport specialises in providing home care for patients as some patients prefer the home rather than hospital environment.
Tertiary services: These are unforeseen costs and requirements that patients are not aware of, including transportation to and from the radiation centre, prosthetics, nutrition during medication and more. Cancer Patients Aid Association and V Care fundraise to meet the nutrition requirement of patients. A paediatric oncologist from Mumbai’s Tata Memorial Hospital noted a shocking fact, that ‘4 out of 10 children lose their fight (against cancer) because of malnutrition.’ Many of them cannot afford the cost of food that is likely to keep them alive while being treated. Cuddles Foundation provides nutrition to malnourished children who often don’t survive chemotherapy due to weak health.
Counselling: Many cancer patients in advanced stages come from villages to seek treatment in Mumbai, Delhi and other cities. As Mitu Puri and Geetanjali Bhalla of Pall Can Care say, “..just getting into a ward could take them months”. They could be uneducated, poor, and unaware of how to navigate government hospitals. Initially, the duo offered services to children but have now extended their work when they found elderly people who travelled to Delhi alone as their families did not want to take care of them.
This Republic Day brought some happy announcements for the nonprofit sector. Dr. V Shanta was awarded a Padma Vibhushan. Dr. Shanta has been tirelessly working to make cancer treatment more affordable to the poorer sections of society. (Watch our blog next month for more updates on the work of cancer NGOs!) Dr. Shanta runs one of the ‘biggest and busiest cancer hospitals in India’, her enthusiasm unabated at the age of 87. Incidentally, she is also the grand-niece of Nobel Prize winner C.V. Raman! Madhu Pandita Dasa of the Akshaya Patra Foundation and Arunachalam Muruganantham (India’s sanitary pad revolutionary) were awarded the Padma Shri, as were several other accomplished social workers. Congratulations to them all.
HelpYourNGO facilitated several connections this month. We are happy to report that Art for Akanksha’s lovely calendars have found a place at the desks of one of our clients. CSR portal Sammaan is attracting attention from corporate houses. The “Be a Brick!” Campaign has seen donors commit over Rs25,000 in just one month. The nicest moment of our month was helping Cricket Club of India with their annual Republic Day event in Mumbai. Nearly 300 children and young adults with disabilities from various NGOs came together on the CCI lawns for an evening of celebration.
February is just around the corner; time for the Deshpande Dialogue. The Dialogue is the flagship event of the Deshpande Foundation set up by NRI millionaire Desh Deshpande. Desh’s vision is to build a Silicon-Valley like incubator for social entrepreneurship in India. Unexpectedly, it’s in Hubli, not Bengaluru, and hopes to back rural entrepreneurs and students; not the usual suspects that come to mind when one hears ‘entrepreneurship’. In its short life, The Dialogue has made a name for itself as a no-frills gathering of some of the brightest and most accomplished minds in the social sector. Members of team HelpYourNGO will be heading off to Hubli, so if you are at the Dialogue do say hi!
Not all corporate houses choose to fund education or health. A few visionary put their funds towards asset creation – beneficial to all citizens; in the present and the future.
1. Tribal Development: Mahindra & Mahindra is best known for its Nanhi Kali programme which funds education for girl children. A hidden gem in their portfolio is their contribution to tribal communities in the Araku Valley in Andhra Pradesh. Working in the area for 15 years now, the Foundation intervened to help the resident tribals form farmer co-operatives to grow and market organic coffee. The all-round development approach work had environmental, economic and social benefits. The coffee grown was organic, profits stayed within the community of growers and the farmers have enjoyed y-o-y income growth. The project has touched 100,000 lives so far. The intervention included planting six million trees in the valley by 2015.
2. Saving an endangered species: For 40 years, Tata Power has been working towards protecting and promoting the endangered mahseer fish. Most recently, they have set up a website to spread the work about this dying species. Their breeding centre at Lonavla in Maharashtra has established a proven system to breed the fish. The initiative has been successful, providing more than 10 million seed that are distributed all over the country. Their efforts have resulted in 3-4 lakh fingerlings being bred a year, rescuing the fish from extinction and increasing the biodiversity in the space.
3. Science and Technology: Narayana Murthy faced criticism for his remarks on the lack of scientific research in India. The Infosys Science Foundation is doing its part to counter the lack of funding Indian scientists and researchers based in the university. They award world class research achievements in science, mathematics, the humanities and the social sciences. Prize money is generous – the awardees receive a sum of Rs65 lakh, and the jury appears to have a good eye for winners. Sample this – a previous recipient went on to work on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals; another became the RBI Governor. Indian universities are underfunded and scientific research is often not a priority. This initiative should go a long way in encouraging their work.
4. Preserving art and heritage: Not a lot of corporates venture into heritage conservation. However, JSW Foundation, the charitable arm of the steel major JSW Steel took it upon themselves to restore the ancient Krishna temple at Hampi, Karnataka. An ambitious eight-year long project, the effort was awarded the UNESCO Asia Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation. Many of India’s majestic ruins lie in a state of disrepair, and the Foundation’s intervention has ensured that Hampi’s temple did not meet the same fate.
Featured in Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy's quarterly newsmagazine 'Philanthropy'. (Sept – Dec 2016 issue)