Puttinu Cares, the children’s cancer support group was set up in October 2002 and began from an idea and desire to offer a holistic approach of care for families with children suffering from cancer. Dr. Victor Calvagna and Mr. Rennie Zerafa were the founders of this group.
The first project of the charity was to bring to life the dull children’s ward in St. Luke’s Hospital (the former general hospital in Malta until 2007). With the help of passionate volunteers and generous sponsors the ward was soon brightened up with vivacious colours and fun pictures that created an environment more attractive for children, and thus more conducive to children’s medical care.
An annual Summer BBQ is organized for the children and their families as well as a Christmas Party where presents are handed out to all participating children. These activities have become a yearly event in Puttinu Cares’ Calendar. Several other smaller activities are held throughout the year. Some of these activities are organized by third-parties with proceeds going to support the charity.
Puttinu Cares employs the principle of solidarity. The charity relies and are grateful on sponsors and generous donations from the public, who also participate regularly in fund raising activities. Today the biggest annual fundraising event of Puttinu Cares, is the Football Marathon, which is usually held in spring. Nonetheless any help immaterial of it size is much appreciated on behalf of the Charity’s benefices.
Thanks to the continuous extensive coverage and support offered especially by the local media, Puttinu Cares has throughout the years created a respectable image among its ever increasing supporters and donors.
Today the children’s oncology ward is housed in the Rainbow ward at the Sir Anthony Oncology Centre Msida. The professional staff of the ward work tirelessly and hand in hand with the dedicated team members and volunteers of Puttinu Cares who are always willing to provide whatever is needed to the cancer sick children and their respective families going through this very difficult period in their lives.
The support group offers guidance for parents in order to help them deal with this ordeal ahead and given them hope for a better future. The team gets to know the familes – their likes and dislikes, weaknesses and strengths, and aims to treat each family as an individual team with customized needs.
Since Malta is a small island state, with limited resources, it is next to impossible to cater for all the required medical care taking into account the complexities and variants that such illnesses may involve. To this end, some of these young patients have to travel overseas accompanied by their families to specialized hospital to receive specific treatment that is not available in Malta.
Puttinu offers help when families need to go abroad to pursue any kind of further treatment in UK. Government covers all medical costs for the patient but Puttinu is there for accommodation for the accompanying family free of charge. Although Puttinu Cares started to help young children with cancer, our support has now extended to include adult patients. This alleviates a huge burden, since when a child gets sick parents doesn’t have to shoulder the expense of accommodation to be able to stay with their child in hospital and care for them in between stays. Right now, between 60 – 90 patients are having treatment in one of 30 different hospitals in UK every month. These patients can spend weeks, months and even years away as in patients or coming and going from hospital.
Since 2008 we have started slowly purchasing apartments and today we own 19 apartments in Sutton. The support group have however been receiving requests for help from people suffering from various ailments, and not just from Cancer. We realised that in order to be able to help all these people with accommodation we require more than just the 18 apartments in Sutton. Infact since last December 2014 we started renting another seven apartments near the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton. This means that 25 apartments are available to hundreds of families in their time of need. The rental of these apartments costs to 60,000 euros every six months.
Puttinu Cares has a dream – that there will come a day when no patient and his family undergoing treatment abroad will have to pay for accommodation. We are on our way to making this dream come true. Right now we are in the process of purchasing a building in the centre of London since the majority of patients go to Great Ormond, National and Moorefields Hospitals which lie in Zone 1. This project is being estimated to cost around 30 million British pounds.
The importance of supporting patients when they are undertaking therapy away from home is paramount. Providing accommodation close to the hospital not only alleviates the financial burden but is also an important ingredient in the sick child’s cure. Having their parents and siblings close at hand when they are going through these difficult times is not a luxury, but a must.