It took me way longer than expected to get to St. Judes’s; more so because it’s located in a part of Parel that I’m not familiar with. Yes, there’s way more to Parel than Phoenix Mills – as I learnt. Besides there were also a couple of diversions put in place for Lalbaugcha Raja and I went round in circles a couple of times till I finally reached there. Drenched in sweat after walking around in the midday Mumbai sun for a good 45 minutes, I climbed the two floors of the Indian Cancer Society building and I kid you not, was transported to another world! My first reaction to their CEO Mrs. Usha Banerjee was, “Oh my God, your place looks exactly like it does in your photos!” And if you see any photos of St. Jude’s premises, you’ll understand how this statement can only be a compliment. Clean – that too spotlessly so, bright, cheerful, yellow, green, and happy are the words I would use to describe St. Jude’s.
After a 24-year long career with Unilever in UK, when Nihal Kaviratne returned home to Mumbai with wife Shyama, they were toying with the idea of doing ‘something meaningful’ in the social sector. They had an abiding interest in welfare of destitute children. Philanthropy was in their genes—their parental families had a long tradition of charitable work. Ms Kaviratne’s family ran Bal Anand, a school for destitute children; Mr Kaviratne’s family supported various catholic orphanages.
On their return to India, Shyama was keen on picking up the threads from where she left off at Bal Anand. Nihal too wanted to put his experience to good use.
A day in the life of a child at a St. Jude’s center –
6AM It may seem early, but our centre wakes up at the crack of dawn especially when children have to go to the hospital for their medical treatment. Luckily, there is no major rush to the bathrooms because we have running water and adequate cubicles for bathing. So while some members of a family brush their teeth, the others can bathe.
7AM Our mothers are in the kitchen getting breakfast ready for their families. They also pack up some lunch for the children while they are waiting at the hospital.
St. Jude’s offers a host of volunteering opportunities. From direct activities with the children and their parents to short-term assignments, short-term, and data/research related. Check out their website for further details, and express interest by filling out the form (on their site) too.
In addition to what’s already on the site, if you are a juggler/clown, you spend an afternoon entertaining the children at one of their centers!
Awards won by St. Jude’s include –
The SIOP Conference & Journal Retrospective analysis of the outcome of holistic care at St. Judes was presented at the October 2011 conference of the International Society for Pediatric Oncology and the abstract published in their Journal concluded that St. Judes care helps achieve a significant decrease in early treatment abandonment rate, morbidity and mortality among child patients with ALL.