Sometimes, life is unfair. It is hard, and it is cruel. Sometimes, children get cancer. But life can also give us angels in the flesh.
Lynette Muthuray is the regional manager of the Childhood Cancer Foundation (CHOC) Cape Town, a non-profit organisation that supports children and their families who are fighting cancer.
CHOC aims to save lives through early detection and making the journey of those who are affected by childhood cancer, less burdensome through various support programmes. Their home for families in Plumstead offers a haven for children who need a safe space to rest between hospital visits. Children from surrounding communities who have to travel far to get to medical facilities in Cape Town and can’t afford their own accommodation, have found a home with CHOC.
Lynette has worked in the non – profit and community development sector for nineteen years. She holds a qualification in Public Management and is an Accredited Facilitator. We spoke to the woman who has invested her heart and soul into caring for these youngsters.
What made you get into this line of work?
I started doing Professional Fundraising in 2002 and I immediately fell in love with the profession. I think it requires a specific skill set and a wonderful ability to work with people at any level. This was my entry into the non – profit sector and my passion for what I do has not waned.
How did you come to be involved with CHOC?
I first joined the CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation SA in 2012 as a Fundraiser & Events Coordinator for the Western Cape Region. After holding a position as an Electoral Project Coordinator at the Independent Electoral Commission, I returned to CHOC in 2016 as the Regional Manager for the Western Cape & Namakwa Region. I have always been passionate about the empowerment of women, children and youth. Even as a young adult I volunteered in charities such as RAG (The Resource Action Group) who operated then in Bishop Lavis. I also volunteered for YMCA which is a Christian Youth Organization. This experience led to me having a deep love for community development.
It must be emotionally draining to work with children who are terminally ill. How do you cope with that?
Yes, it can be emotionally strenuous when faced with so many terminally ill children. It can be even harder when some of those children lose their battle against cancer. It’s important to focus on the higher number of children who recover and who become survivors. These children are the true heroes. I value having a strong support base and strong spiritual beliefs. In CHOC, we also have professional colleagues who offer debriefing and bereavement support for staff as the need arises.
How do you face parents who go through these immensely difficult times?
CHOC’s role it not to give medical advice to parents, neither does the operational staff provide counselling. Counselling is only provided by the Social Workers. When facing parents who are going through immensely difficult times you can merely listen and be present. Just a kind word makes a difference. I find hope in the fact that CHOC’s services/programmes make the parents’ difficult challenges slightly easier.
What is the hardest part of your job?
- One of the biggest challenges that most charities in SA are faced with, including CHOC, is self-sustainability and obtaining sufficient resources to continue with our services and programmes that we need to provide to children and teenagers in future.
- The second challenge is Awareness: The fact is that children in SA are not diagnosed quickly enough leads to the fact that South Africa has one of the lowest survival rates for childhood cancer in the world.
What is the part of your job you love the most?
Childhood cancer is a frightening diagnosis that no parent should ever have to deal with. But, unfortunately, it is a reality that many families across South Africa have to come to terms with on a daily basis. These families are facing the toughest battle they will ever have to face – along with their little warrior who is fighting right on the frontline, at the heart of the battle.
But fortunately, these brave children and teenagers, along with their families never have to stand alone. The aspect that I love the most about my work is to see the difference and impact that CHOC’s services make in the lives of many children and teenagers who are diagnosed with cancer and life threatening blood disorders.
CHOC relies on funds donated by individuals, companies, trusts and foundations. Without CHOC, many children – particularly those from low-income households living far from treatment centres – would not be able to receive the needed treatment and support.
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