RC Bangalore Southwest, RID 3190, is on a mission to support treatment of children afflicted with cancer through its Rotary Health For Life (RHFL) series of projects initiated in 2010. Until November, 228 children were being treated at the Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology and St John’s Medical College Hospital, Bengaluru, with financial support from Rotary, says Gnanamurthy, a charter member of this 41-year-old club.
The above number includes six-year-old Noor Ahmed and his 90-year-old great grandmother Noor Jahan. “Having lost the entire family during the pandemic, they were the only two survivors — the oldest a cripple, and the youngest suffering from acute blood cancer,” he says, having met them at the Kidwai hospital during the club’s routine Annadaana programme, when the members visit the hospital to serve food to attendants of young cancer patients. “Almost all of them looked impoverished, and were looking forward to the only meal for the day.”
It was heart-wrenching to see the helplessness of parents who painfully witnessed their little ones succumb to cancer because of lack of funds.
Noor Jahan was directed to Kidwai by the municipal doctor in her village. “She said people in her village were talking about some group helping out with medicine for the patient and food for the attendants in Kidwai. She had no idea about the magnitude of blood cancer. She said that her faith in god sent her to us. Our club is trying to save the child — the least we could do for the devastated great grandmother,” says Gnanamurthy.
Talking about how this heartening project took off, project chairman S K Bhagavan narrates an incident from 2010–11, when the then DG (late) Pandurang Potnis had set his heart on supporting this cause. Bhagavan, the then club president, had visited the paediatric oncology department of Kidwai hospital along with Potnis. “It was heart-wrenching to see the helplessness of parents who painfully witnessed their little ones succumb to cancer because of lack of funds. We decided right there to provide free or subsidised medicines to children suffering from cancer.” Thus was born RHFL with an initial capital of $1,000.
“We raised $43,000 through matching grants to provide paediatric chemotherapy to 43 patients at Kidwai; 37 children survived translating to a survival rate of 86 per cent.”
Encouraged by the project’s outcome, the club applied for a global grant in the first year of its launch from TRF, and with support from RC Redmond, RID 5330, USA, raised $63,000 for the cause. Under RHFL2 which was carried out from 2015 to 2019 at Kidwai and St John’s Medical College Hospital, “we helped treat 102 children; 84 of them were successfully cured,” says Bhagavan.
Heartened by the promising results of both the versions, the club applied for another GG in partnership with RC Richmond, RID 5080, USA, for $75,000. As the need to support more children became acute, the club joined hands with RC Bangalore Indiranagar to raise funds under guidance from the then DG Dr Sameer Hariani. Funds were raised through www.fueladream.com, a crowdfunding platform. The children and teachers of the Delhi Public School Bangalore South raised ₹60 lakh. RHFL4 was launched in Aug 2019 to support the treatment for 135 children.
Bhagavan recalls the successful treatment of Krishna, son of a small farmer, Thippa Reddy, from Andhra Pradesh. Krishna was diagnosed with leukemia, a curable cancer, in Feb 2021. He completed his intensive chemotherapy in Oct 2021 at St John’s Hospital through the RHFL project and is now on regular follow up. “Success stories such as these push us to do more and save many more lives.”
Adds Gnanamurthy, “Childhood cancer is curable if the child receives timely and appropriate treatment. The diagnosis of cancer comes as a major challenge for families on hand-to-mouth existence. If the missing link is money, we believe it is available here and elsewhere in the world, and we will bridge the gap.”