House of Hope: Living up to its name

CHRISTMAS season is a season of joy, hope and thanksgiving for children, especially to the cancer patients who are fighting for their diseases, and are fighting for their life.

To the children of House of Hope Foundation for Kids with Cancer Inc. located in Southern Mindanao Philippines Center, Christmas is their most favorite and wonderful time of the year.

Dr. Mae Concepcion J. Dolendo, program director of the center, said that there is no more merrier days for cancer patients than Christmas season.

"Christmas is the happiest time in the house of hope, because this is the time where a lot of visitors are coming over to celebrate Christmas with us and the kids," Dolendo said.

She said that people from the community also celebrate birthdays in the transient house of the cancer patients and they sponsor parties and give gifts to children.

"Some of our advocates they also bring children on day out, depende kung saan sila magpunta (Some of our advocates bring the children on a day out, depending on where do they want to go," Dolendo said.

Aside from that, every December, the children were also given a chance to meet those who have completed treatment. They call this day Survivor's Day.

"We have patients who have completed treatment come during that time on Survivors Day every December 8 and we have a big Christmas party para sa lahat," she said.

She said they organized the Survivors' Day to inspire patients who are still undergoing diagnosis and treatment.

"Because there is no better proof that cancer is curable apart if not for a child who has truly gone through a cancer treatment and survived," Dolendo said.

The first Survivors' Day was celebrated in 2007. Dr. Dolendo decided to forego of her birthday celebration on December 8 and instead celebrated it with the children.

"That time, we only have around 30 people, siguro mga 11 patients," she said.

She said this year, 765 people celebrated Survivors Day at the SMX Convention Center in SM Lanang Premier with the help of Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio and private sponsors. A total of 256 children from the House of Hope attended the program where the children received gifts from different sponsors.

Aside from the support given for the Survivors Day celebration, the City Health Office (CHO) also distributed gifts to children.

Dolendo said that CHO, headed by Dr. Josephine Villafuerte, gave gifts, food, and entertainment to the children.

Since 2007, the House of Hope has given care and shelter for the children and their parent. It was built under the House of Hope Foundation, which started as Davao Children's with Cancer Fund Inc. (DCCFI), a non-stock, non-profit charity organization for children with cancer.

Founded in 2004, the DCCFI became the House of Hope Foundation in 2015.

Through the foundation, the patients get support from the City Government with health support from Lingap para sa Mahirap. They also get free medicines from the Department of Health (DOH), but the House of Hope Foundation fills the gap, if there is a need to buy medicines that cannot be provided by Lingap or DOH.

The House of Hope Foundation, through the Kids of Hope Program, provides support programs by establishing transient homes for children with cancer.

There are also satellite facilities in other areas of Mindanao to provide referrals, diagnoses, and treatment for patients.

Dolendo said their foundation also has assistance for diagnostics and medicines, and treatment modalities like radiotherapy.

"Christmas is really for the children. We know the reason for the season is really Christ being born on Christmas Day. I think this is very symbolic of hope not only for children but for mankind and Christmas should be celebrated with joy and thanksgiving. For children who are undergoing treatment, I wish that they will continue to remain hopeful and have faith that they will be able to fight cancer," Dolendo said.
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