Lending A Hand
Mumbai-based Helping Hands works towards aiding cancer-afflicted young children.By Rosy Jose
Meet Neetu (name changed), 17, a quiet, shy girl from Madhya Pradesh. She aspires to be a teacher when she grows up. Unfortunately, her dreams were cut short when she was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 10. She traveled to Mumbai, with her family, for treatment at the Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH). Her mother had to be with her throughout the course of the treatment. Her dad used to look for work as a daily wage earner to sustain their basic needs. “Mumbai is so expensive,” said S Neetu. “We were staying in a small room with barely enough place for three of us and it cost us INR 2,000. Between food, accommodation, and medical expenses the money my father would earn was never enough. We had to borrow money from our relatives to just sustain ourselves.” Her treatment was successful but she has been in and out of hospitals ever since, for regular check-ups.
Unfortunately, last month, her leukemia relapsed and the whole family has moved to Mumbai once again for treatment. But things are a little different this time, thanks to the Helping Hands Foundation (HHF). The NGO has built Dharamshala for children who are undergoing treatment at the Tata Memorial Hospital. HHF was the brainwave of Madhavi Goenka, who wanted to help her children with a social impact school project. They started working on a home for lepers. Then they met Shalini Jatia who told them about the nutrition project for underprivileged children at TMH, which was going to be shut down due to the severe paucity of funds. The nutrition project supplied nutritionally balanced food packets to those who could not afford proper diets during the course of their treatment. Goenka decided to protect this project. She found another kindred soul in Meghana Patel, who also wanted to contribute her time and effort for this worthy cause. Together, they raised funds for an entire year. Thus, HHF was born. It is now registered under the BPG Goenka Trust and boasts of a rather influential advisory board. “Helping Hands showed me how even one person can truly make a difference,” says Goenka.
“WE DO NOT MAKE ANY PHONE CALLS OR PROMOTE DOOR TO DOOR SOLICITATION OF FUNDS FOR OUR PROJECTS. INTERESTED DONORS CAN DONATE VIA OUR WEBSITE. HELPING HANDS SHOWED ME HOW EVEN ONE PERSON CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.”Madhavi Goenka, Founder, Helping Hands Foundation
Today, the foundation is primarily a fundraising entity. The disbursement of funds for the different projects is done directly by the hospital. It has adopted some rather unique ways of raising money for its cause. HHF hosts two fundraisers annually, which is attended by Bollywood stars and other A-listers of Mumbai. There are also some exclusive events that help raise money for the various projects HHF is involved in. Guests can participate in the ‘Buy a leaf and donate a night’s accommodation’ project. Leaves are attached to lollipops, and for every lollipop purchased, the money is transferred to the accommodation fund.
HHF also collaborates with artists to be part of the fundraiser. This gives the guests an exclusive opportunity to pick up some interesting pieces of art, the proceeds of which go to HHF. HHF is one of the NGOs supported by Raddiconnect, which encourages donors to donate their recyclables for a good cause. “We do not make any phone calls or promote door to door solicitation of funds for our projects. Interested donors can donate via our website,” says Goenka.
HHF follows a unique zero cost format of operation. It does not have employees on its rolls; instead, it hires interns from various schools (Ecole Mondiale World School, Jamnabai Narsee School, Billabong High International School, Dhirubhai Ambani International School, and Poddar International School) and runs a mentorship programme for them. HHF works primarily with TMH Paediatrics and ImPacct Foundation, through three main projects.
The Accommodation Project works directly with the hospital and the Dharamshala. It provides free accommodation to the child and the family during the treatment. HHF raises INR 5,000 per family per month. It houses 150 families every month. The project not only enables continuity of treatment (less abandonment of treatment due to monetary constraints, thereby ensuring a better success rate for treatment) but prevents the children from being infected, especially in their immune-compromised state, due to poor living conditions. The money saved by parents helps them focus on the nutrition and care of the child.
This is a two-pronged approach to life, post-cancer. It enables survivors to stay cancer-free by ensuring post-recovery care via free and regular testing, counseling and education. This project also supports them in their dreams and helps them earn their livelihood.
This helps parents cope with the loss of their child. It is most often not viable for them to transport the body to their hometown. This project helps the family conduct the last rights according to their wishes. Though HHF was started as a nutrition project, they now distribute food only in the rainy season. HHF has tied up with upmarket events like Bridal Asia, IMC, Ruchika Exhibitions, Divalicious, and JOYA, besides being supported by many corporates as part of the CSR activities. HHF has managed to garner support from prominent names in Tinseltown like Tamannah Bhatia, Kim Sharma, Twinkle Khanna, and Imran Khan. HHF has just completed the renovation of the entire pediatric OPD at the Tata Memorial Hospital. And is gearing up for more good things this year.
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