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Local and expat groups work hand in hand to support cancer patients

Al-Sidra Center, a refuge for cancer patients at the Kuwait Cancer Control Center (KCCC), is a symbol of struggle – but mostly hope – for patients of all nationalities. The center, founded by consultant and oncologist Dr Shafika Al-Wadhi, is part of the Al Sidra Association for the Psychological Care of Cancer Patients. The center’s activities are supported by Sheikha Azza Jaber Al-Ali Al-Sabah. The success of the center’s activities can also be attributed to some organizations and communities trying to collaborate and work with them.

There are many local businesses and organizations that help support the organization. Two of the many organizations expat groups that are active in supporting cancer patients at the KCCC are the Kabayan Cancer Support Group (KCSG), headed by Marcelino Mallari, and the Kuwait Filipino Mothers Organization (KFMO), headed by Elnie Tejero Talledo.

“There are a number of Filipino patients treated and cared for here at the KCCC but we are not exclusive for any particular nationality. We care for everyone suffering in the hospital regardless of their nationality,” said Sarah Yousef, Founder and Project Adviser at KFMO, which labels itself as a group for volunteering, sharing, giving encouragement and bridging patients with their families back home.

“Since we are from the Philippines, we concentrate on helping our own kabayans. There are many kabayans who are cancer patients and some of them are disconnected with their families. We are supporting them in many ways – if they have families and if their children back home need something, we contribute and send them money. Some patients are undergoing treatment for months now, so we support them as much as we can to ease the suffering of their families back home,” she said.

KFMO offers support not just in the form of money and encouragement, but in many other ways. Fely Torio, another KFMO member, uses her talent for cooking home-made Filipino foods and shares them with Filipino patients. “I just sit there for some time to talk to them and give them encouragement. Last week, we visited terminally ill patients at Sheikha Badriya Al-Sabah Center. We see them today, and probably the next day they are gone. If this is so painful to witness, what about their families? We are all humans, and are also affected. In this small way, we are helping to ease their suffering. Mostly, we visit as volunteers to make them feel comfortable, give them some advice and some motivation and encouragement so they keep fighting. We are thankful that even if not all the time, their physical and emotional burdens are lightened,” she said.

KCSG founder Mallari said the group was created to support and help Filipino cancer patients in Kuwait. “Currently, we have more than 100 Filipino cancer patients. We help and support all cancer patients in Kuwait in whatever way we can,” he said. “We are physically and emotionally close to them. We are here as nurses – walking and talking with them almost every day. The idea came to me during a Christmas celebration organized for them in 2014. I saw the happiness and smiles of Filipino patients, so I said: Why not to sustain the happiness of these people. I know this would not be possible alone, so I held a meeting with some Filipino nurses at KCCC, and a few weeks after Christmas the Kabayan Cancer Support Group was born,” he said.

Al-Sidra organizes several activities such as yoga, meditation, breathing, look good feel good programs, massage therapy session, lectures on stress management and other educational seminars, trainings and workshops.

By Ben Garcia

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