Kapil Chawla who successfully fought off cancer a few years ago, has now filmed a documentary focusing on the facilities at a Kolkata-based free-stay home run by Cankids KidsCan NGO for the ailing kids to encourage the patients from rural areas not to quit and leave in the middle of their treatment. Chawla said, "Many poor children need to stay close to hospitals for weeks to undergo regular treatment. However, lack of facilities, most of the times, forces them to survive on pavements till the chemotherapy is over."
Supported by Cankids, Chawla studied the impact of a newly-launched facility named 'SNEHONEER', a 'Home Away From Home' (HAH), in the Hussainpur area that offers not only a roof over the heads of the children with cancer and their parents but also a holistic environment which promises clean and hygienic surroundings during their long drill of daily visits to hospitals.
Rations are provided and raised through local donations. There are school activities in the Kolkata based HAH which also has multi-functional areas for entertainment, parent forums, celebrations and therapeutic activities. Chawla said, "I was surprised to see so many children hailing from the rural West Bengal and other states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and even from neighboring countries like Bangladesh and Nepal, feeling vulnerable in a big city like Kolkata. The film captures the story of thousands of those who should be in the schools studying and playing with their peers but unfortunately have to go through a tough drill like chemotherapy."
A program assistant from the NGO said the government-run hospitals like the Medical College and Hospital and the Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital (NRSMCH) do their bit to provide the young cancer patients with the best of treatment which goes on for as long as three years but they have their own limitations. Cankids regional director and board member Mohit Aggarwal said, "The HAH plays a role in preventing the poor kids and their families from leaving their treatment midway."
Head of department at NRSMCH Prantar Chakarabarty said, "Unfortunately we can't do anything for the way they have to live. We need the child to live in a close proximity to the hospital so that in case of urgency no time is wasted and the child can get right treatment at the right time. And this is the story with most of the hospitals in Kolkata treating pediatric cancer."
Chawla's documentary film also touches upon the issue of the initial resistance from locals by the free-stay home. Poonam Bagai, Chairman Cankids and colon cancer survivor, said, "It took a long time to convince the area residents that there was no danger to them or their families from the sick children living in the HAH. The free-stay home is a step in the direction of making the country reach the 90-95% curable rate of childhood cancer."
CanKids KidsCan is a registered charitable national society that focuses on providing the best possible treatment and care to children by bringing them closer to medical professionals for access to advanced treatment.