World Rose Day is observed every year on September 22 to salute the spirit and courage of 12-year-old Melinda Rose from Canada, who was diagnosed with blood cancer. During her last days, she reached out to other cancer patients and their caregivers and cheered them on with her letters, poems and emails. The journey of cancer is traumatic not only for the patients but for the family as well, and the pain is unbearable when they lose their loved ones to this deadly disease. But there are families who continue to do what Melinda has done.
One such woman who continues to help thousands of families to champion over cancer is Kerala-based Sheeba Ameer. Her life came to a standstill when she found out that her 13-year-old daughter had cancer. She has seen her daughter suffering through the pain of cancer and eventually losing her life to the dreaded disease.
“My daughter was a fighter — she faced the situation bravely. But, despite our best efforts, she did not survive. I still remember everything that we went through during that period. While I was going through my daughter’s treatment at Tata Institute in Mumbai, I saw many other helpless mothers whose kids were dying. I wanted to do something for them and after returning to Kerala, I started the organisation called Solace in 2007 based in Thrissur, Kerala,” she tells DT Next.
The organisation facilitates care and support for children from poor backgrounds with long term illnesses. In collaboration with the medical fraternity, Solace provides medical, social and psychological aid, including counselling to the children, their caregivers and families.
“There are three centres in Kerala with a team of 30 to 40 people who take care of even the smallest needs of cancer patients. We counsel the family members and extend financial aid for treatment like chemotherapy and pay for their life-saving drugs,” shares Sheeba.
Apart from this, Sheeba also helps the mothers of the patients to be independent by finding them livelihood options. “In some cases, the father leaves the family and it becomes the mother’s responsibility to take care of the ailing child. To support and empower such mothers, we train them in tailoring, candle-making and food processing in order to earn while caring for their children,” she says.
To make sure that the youngsters develop a compassionate approach towards people with illnesses, she initiated a concept called Solace Youth that helps young volunteers to visualise and act upon their models of bettering society. “The youth have managed to communicate successfully with the families, and understand and address their needs. Our youth volunteers develop a close relationship with the children and stay the night at hospitals for their care,” she says proudly.
Sheeba now wants to expand the scope of her work and started supporting patients affected by thalassemia and cerebral palsy. To raise funds for this, she has started a campaign with Milaap.org.