One of the most critical services CHOC provides is accommodation close to treatment centres, as well as daily transport to the hospitals. In our houses and lodges the child and family can feel at home, be provided with food, and clothing if necessary, and have access to information and emotional support. Without this service, it would be impossible for many children to complete the entire treatment cycle, which can take up to three years.
A significant accomplishment in 2013 was the opening of three new accommodation facilities, bringing the total to 13. (See article Opening the First CHOC House) Our deepest thanks go to The Cows for the East London House and to our long-time regular donor Platinum Life that stepped in and provided the necessary funds for the house in Pietermaritzburg.
During the hospitalisation phase, a parent needs accommodation to be able to visit the child. Then during the out-patient treatment phase both the child and a parent need to be accommodated. Treatment for children with cancer typically requires fairly long periods of hospitalisation and then treatment on an out-patient phase can vary from a week to nine months or even longer in the case of bone-marrow transplant patients. The CHOC House programme provides the needed safe and nurturing environment where the child and caregiver can relax and be with other families facing similar difficulties.
In total, our capacity is 66 030 bed nights per annum. Due to the growing awareness of childhood cancer, it has become necessary to enlarge premises in several of the regions.
With occupancy steadily increasing our budget for maintenance and running costs of the accommodation facilities in 2015 will amount to R7.132 million, with each facility costing over half a million.
Opening of CHOC House Pietermatizburg with Platinum Life
With many children having to travel long distances to the hospital to receive treatment, the costs involved can place a major financial burden on their families. In order to achieve a good prognosis for cure, it is essential that the child returns for treatment when scheduled and completes the entire course. CHOC’s transport fund is aimed at ensuring that no child is precluded from attending treatment centres due to a lack of money for transport. This support also prevents the early abandonment of treatment.
With frequent visits to treatment centres, children lose out on many of the day-to-day activities of being a child. To compensate for this, birthday parties and outings are arranged by CHOC staff and volunteers for the children, to enable them to be taken out of the hospital environment. Where funds allow CHOC sponsors children to go on recreational camps. www.justfootprints.co.za
Hospitals can seem unfriendly and even frightening to children. As the treatment of childhood cancer is lengthy, children and their parents spend a substantial amount of time in the ward. So CHOC works in close liaison with medical staff to ensure that the treatment facilities are of a high standard, with units providing a warm, child-friendly environment. We decorate the wards, using colourful and cheerful décor and provide age-appropriate activities such as toys, games, televisions and DVDs (with players). This ensures that children remain stimulated.
Parents also spend long periods in hospital and it is preferable that they are able to continue with some of their parenting roles and maintain a semblance of normal life. To enable this, CHOC aims to provide kitchen facilities, a laundry, relaxation areas, and comfortable chairs in wards. Parents are then better able to provide for their children’s special needs and relax in reasonable comfort at hospitals as well as meet with other parents of children with cancer.
Opening of the Dora Nginza Ward
Charlotte Maxeke ward decorations
Entering into the hospital environment can be a difficult experience for many families and one for which they are usually unprepared. Upon admission, each child received a ‘Care Bag’ which contains personal necessities such as toiletries, books and toys. CHOC also connects patients to resources and will provide basic foodstuffs for families in need.