Mbrace-ing children in the time of Covid
The Covid19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted children and placed them in extremely difficult circumstances. Education, for instance, has made an extraordinary shift to the digital space, while some of the children whose parents have lost their jobs, are in risk of malnutrition, given the socio-economic crisis and lack of daily sustenance.
We can safely say, then, that this global health care has brought to the forefront, two kinds of children: one, children who find it hard to cope with the effects of Covid-19 but are in good health; and second, children who are continuously coping with the effects of Covid19, while battling a chronic illness. While both need to find some semblance of stability and calm, the latter is more exposed to intense multiple risks, are in dire need, and requires more attention.
The good news is, there are charitable organizations, like the Mbrace Project, that help children with disabilities and other chronic illnesses, have stepped up and risen to the occasion.
Inclusion for children
What started as a personal initiative to help children with disabilities in time of COVID-19 and natural disasters, has blossomed into Mbrace Project—the name of which comes from the word “embrace”, the organization’s mission to advocate “embracing” inclusion for children with disabilities and chronic conditions, especially those with cancer. At the helm of this organization is its Executive Director Martin Sy, who is also the Program & Development Director of Special Achievers, and Childhaus PH. Mbrace’s founders are part of other NGOs that bonded together to form Mbrace Project.
This global non-profit organization began in January 2020, mainly when this health crisis occurred, as its respective NGO projects temporarily stopped due to the pandemic and the people behind it realized they could no longer give financial support to the children who they wanted to help. However, their persistence in their mission of improving the lives of children with disabilities, cancer, and other chronic conditions, from low-income families through earlier diagnosis, correct information, effective treatment, and support, has found funding and donations from ordinary people and businesses who have shared their love for what the organization does for the children.
Support by the numbers
Mbrace visualized a world that embraces every child with a disability so they can have access to quality care and treatment. Meanwhile, they do their best to provide what they can so children, especially those who need medical support could enjoy a better quality of life.
To date, Mbrace has supported 135 pediatric cancer patients, and kids battling with other chronic diseases, by giving them medical assistance other needs such as milk, vitamins, and monetary support for their treatments. They also provided transportation for children who need to go to the hospital for their regular chemotherapy sessions. Currently, under its beneficiary list, 50 children with cancer, 20 children living with HIV, and 25 children with learning disabilities.
The organization has also helped 55 children with learning disabilities and provided them with learning materials and therapy assistance to children with autism, Down syndrome, global delay, and cerebral palsy. Going the extra mile, Mbrace has aided 85 public school students by giving them laptops, tablets, and mobile phones in order for them to transition seamlessly to online learning. It has also sought out 315 children in evacuation centers who are displaced by natural disaster like typhoons and volcanic eruptions.
Extending help to children specifically during this pandemic is not a walk in the park as the organization has encountered countless challenges. “Finding funding to sustain our projects was one of the biggest challenges during the pandemic. We sell paintings from our Art therapy program to help with funding. Online fundraising events have been really helpful with making ends meet too,” an Mbrace representative revealed.
Because treatments and chemo sessions usually take a toll on children’s mental health, Mbrace extends counseling support and debriefing expression activities such as free art therapy sessions for cancer patients and children with disabilities that will help them vent their emotions, improve self-esteem, relieve stress, reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression, and to assist them in coping with the effects of the illness. Seeing the need for uninterrupted medical and psychological support, Mbrace also provides psychological therapy to parents and guardians so they could maximize their potentials in providing better health care even at home.
“Also, we give care packages on a monthly basis to our beneficiaries which includes activity books or materials to keep kids with cancer occupied during chemotherapy. We also provide sensory toys for children with learning disabilities,” the Mbrace representative said.
Apart from all that, the organization also offers free occupational therapy, speech therapy, and physical therapy to these children when volunteer therapists are available. On a monthly basis, it also tries to give care packages to as many children as it can and hold a fundraiser for those who are celebrating their birthdays. Anyone who is willing to donate for the birthday or organization fundraiser are welcome.
Hero drivers and other channels of support
Mobility has been a challenge as well, especially during community quarantine lockdown when transportation has sometimes been inaccessible. Together with CancervantsPH, Mbrace has launched the Hero Driver Program, where volunteer drivers offer free transportation for pediatric cancer patients as they go about their weekly chemotherapy sessions. Hero Driver is a volunteer program that takes children with cancer safely to their chemotherapy or home from the hospital.
Mbrace has also launched a new project recently which gives livelihood programs to empower parents and guardians from low-income families. Its aim is to be able to build a sustainable livelihood home-based program for the parents and guardians of the organization’s beneficiaries so they can earn from home while taking care of their sick children.
Mbrace is continually seeking for Hero drivers, and if you have the extra time and vehicle, the organization encourages you to volunteer and bring these children safely to their chemotherapy through this link: Hero Driver Volunteer Form | forms.app
Those who are willing to be a Blood Donor for sick children who need blood for their chemotherapy appointments may check this and help: Contact Form | forms.app
Mbrace knows that it has so much to do and so many children to help, and it cannot accomplish everything by itself thus, they have forged partnerships with Cancervants; Special Achievers; Childhaus PH; and Plushies for Hope.
Help is on the way
Despite the challenges, Mbrace is looking forward to better days, with children getting incessant treatment and finally their health back and living normal lives. Years from now, it also sees itself growing, and expanding. “We see ourselves putting up our own halfway home for children with cancer, near the National Children’s Hospital in Quezon City so patients from the provinces can get access to treatment without worrying about the living expenses and traveling cost to the city,” Mbrace said.
The organization also wants its Hero Driver program to be a permanent project to ease the burden of travel for children with cancer. The Mbrace team and their volunteers are planning to purchase their own service vehicle and hire a full-time driver to give the Hero Driver Program a boost, to be able to service as many patients as possible.
In the meantime, Mbrace continues to embrace inclusion and extend kindness for children in difficult circumstances during these tough times. On our part, Mbrace encourages everyone to continue advocating and embracing inclusion for children with chronic illness and disabilities by sharing their social media posts (Facebook, IG & Twitter: Mbrace Project) and getting to know them better and help them by donating or volunteering via the Mbrace Project.
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