When one is diagnosed with Cancer in Botswana, it is very likely that they will have to travel to Gaborone or further, to access treatment. The capital city is where the most treatment options are found, for instance, radiation can only be done in Gaborone. The case is especially true for children with Cancer. The only place where children with Cancer are treated by specialised doctors in Botswana is at Princess Marina Hospital.
Botswana is a vast country, with a landscape stretching hundreds of thousands of square kilometres, and a person found in many of the hidden corners of the land. Dozens of parents and children are uprooted from their towns and home villages for several weeks at a time, in order to be treated for various types of Cancers in Gaborone. Many of these families have no relatives who can house them in the capital city and do not have the finances to be able to support their daily needs in Gaborone. They are away from the livestock that gives them their daily milk and the farms that provides their daily bread. Some mothers have to take extended leave days from work, to be with their children in hospital. That kind of leave eventually becomes unpaid leave and sometimes worse, the end of a job desired and needed by many others.
It would be nice to have radiation machines or an oncologist in every town. These are big wishes, that are decades of years away. The Cancer Association of Botswana (CAB) had a smaller, more urgent wish. They wished they had a place to host the children and parents of families who come to Gaborone for Cancer treatment. They wished for an interim home for these young fighters who were away from school for months, receiving painful chemotherapy, and staying in Princess Marina Hospital for many weeks simply because they had nowhere else to go. They wished that they could give them a home away from home.
Two years ago, this wish was heard by an NGO called Ladies’ Circle Botswana (LCB). LCB was founded in 1980 and is an affiliate of the umbrella body, Ladies’ Circle International. Their motto is ‘Friendship and Service’ and their track record indicates they have been doing just that. This group of women whose membership requires that they be between the ages of 18 and 45, have over the decades worked with several charitable projects, including Youth Against Drug Abuse, Down Syndrome Association of Botswana and Women’s Shelter. They have now added the Cancer Association of Botswana to their list, by pledging to make their wish for a children’s interim home a reality.
Ladies’ Circle Botswana, with support and endorsement from their International peers, have pledged to raise the funds needed to build and run an interim home for children in Gaborone for Cancer treatment. Melissa Thula of LCB says that the members were inspired by a story of a boy who almost died in a bus on his way back home from getting treatment in Gaborone, where him and his family had nowhere to stay. “Many of us are mothers, and this story moved us. The thought of the pain that this boy and his parents went through, was enough to inspire us to act. It is then that we began engaging with CAB and offered to build the home for them,” she says.
LCB has already been through some tests, the first of which was winning the support of their international peers. This Happy Hearts Home Project is the first from LCB to win the international bid, pitched against proposals from other countries. Now the real work has begun, which is to raise the funds and create the relationships needed for the home to be built.
Melissa believes that charity begins at home, and their fund-raising efforts will be centred on getting local businesses, professionals and the people of Botswana to contribute the most to the success of this project. The first fund raising event will be a Gala Dinner held at Gaborone International Conference Centre on the 9th of June 2018. “Since the main benefactors of this home will be children, this night will showcase children’s talents,” Melissa explains. Many of the entertainment acts will be by children. The guest speaker at the event is the President of Botswana, His Excellency Mokgweetsi Masisi.
This is only the first of many future activities including mall activations every month, raffle prices, Buy A Brick campaigns and more. The end goal is to have a home built and run in Block 8, land currently undeveloped and owned by the donor reliant organisation, CAB. The fight against Cancer is an onerous, multi-faceted one, and we each can lend a hand a play a part. CAB and Ladies’ Circle Botswana can be contacted for more information about the upcoming Gala Dinner and other ways to participate in the project.
Lebani Mazhani is a Lawyer, Cancer Awareness Activist and Cancer Survivor.