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Fighting cancer with creativity and smiles

Abu Dhabi teens visit hospital daily to spread cheer among child patients

Image Credit: Supplied
Farah Al Mutawa, Loran Pelecky, Nour Ramzi and Fadila Farag
XPRESS

ABU DHABI Fifteen-year-old Fadila Farag fought leukaemia twice and is now on a mission to make the cancer fight cheerful and colourful for patients at the same hospital where she was diagnosed as a three-year-old.

The Abu Dhabi-based high school Egyptian teenager and her three friends at the American Community School are at the helm of ‘Protect the Fighters’, a group that volunteers to bring smiles by visiting the paediatric oncology department of an Abu Dhabi hospital daily.

“During treatment, young cancer patients do nothing except stare at the blank walls of the ward. This leaves them bored and emotionally drained, so we try to brighten up their mood with creative activities like art, music and books,” said Fadila who underwent treatment at the MD Anderson Cancer Centre in Houston.

Inspiration

“When I was being treated in the US, the atmosphere there was very energetic with a dedicated gym, playroom and an in-house school to keep young cancer patients academically engaged so that they didn’t lag behind others,” recalls Farag who took the inspiration from her US days and has made it a mission to bring smiles to the faces of children battling cancer in the Abu Dhabi hospital. She began volunteering in January 2014 with a group of friends.

As many as 20 volunteers are now registered with the hospital and they go in pairs daily to cheer up the young patients. They read books, use paint, colours, decoration and get the nurses to wear colourful scrubs. They also perform in-house music concerts to entertain the young fighters.

The volunteers have also held several fundraising events at their school to raise donations for supplies to be used at the hospital.

Last fortnight, four of these volunteers -- Syrian Nour Ramzi, 16, Emirati Farah Al Mutawa, 17, American Loran Pelecky, 17, and Fadila gave a TED Talk at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD.

“We spoke about how public stigma increases psychological distress of children suffering from cancer and how important it is for us as a society to emotionally support these patients,” said Fadila who aspires to become a paediatric oncologist.

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