As a follow-up to our recent donation, we sat down with Anne Goeres, Managing Director of the Fondatioun Kriibskrank Kanner, and Veerle Dierick, Fundraising and Volunteering Coordinator, to highlight the key work that they do and to find out how we can help make a difference to children with cancer or rare life-threatening diseases.
Could you tell us about Fondatioun Kriibskrank Kanner?
V: We have been accompanying children fighting cancer or rare life-threatening diseases and their families for more than 30 years. We have three missions: The first one is to help improve the physical and psychological condition of the child and their family at every stage of the illness. Help includes assistance with the financial and administrative aspects such as medical bills, psycho-social support as well as educational, therapeutic and recreational activities. Our second mission is to raise awareness of childhood cancer and rare diseases as well as protecting their rights. Our third and final mission is to actively support research by funding select projects that work to find a softer and more efficient cure.
A: In order to offer the best possible access to the Fondatioun’s support, we run three establishments. The first one, La Maison des Enfants (Luxembourg), is where we host various activities and where our administration work is based. La Maison Losch (Brussels) offers temporary accommodation for the parents whose children are being treated in the nearby hospital. L’Appartement de Convalescence (Belgian coast) allows patients and their families to take time off and return to normality for a little while.
Financially speaking, how important are donations to the Fondatioun?
A: Donations are our only financial resource. While it is nice to be totally free and not depend on the government, it is also challenging. We need donations to help children and their families. Raising awareness is therefore a key priority, even more so following the pandemic. Since 2020, we have seen a big loss in the volume of donations.
V: We are always looking to raise awareness and funds. While donations are used to fund our main activity – helping improve the kids and their families’ physical and psychological conditions at every stage of the illness – we also actively fund research. If at the end of the year we have a surplus, 75% will go towards funding research. In collaboration with the French and Belgian childhood cancer organisation, we have developed our own European call for innovative, high-impact and collaborative research programmes.
Did COVID-19 impact your activities?
A: 2020 was rough. Donations decreased, our establishments closed down and we had to find ways of staying in touch with families remotely. Therapists and psychologists had to move their sessions to Zoom, which worked for some patients, but not for others. As a result, we decided to ask most of our co-workers to stay at home to be able to offer on-site meetings with therapists again.
V: We had to put in place strict security health measures. We had to cancel major events, including our annual summer gathering for kids and their families, which broke our hearts. It’s the time of the year when we get them together, illness aside. Since they couldn’t come to the party in 2020, we decided to bring the party to them instead. We sent out 180 gift boxes to these children, which they all opened at the same time during a live Facebook event.
A: The pandemic put additional strain on children and their families. With COVID-19, some children did not get a proper diagnosis because of delayed medical visits. As a result, the diagnosis came too late. On top of that, parents whose children are already sick have been more anxious than ever before. They are afraid of catching the virus. If they do, they won’t be able to see their kids for a while.
What does 2021 have in store for the Fondatioun?
V: September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. We actively participate in this international celebration symbolised by a gold ribbon. This year, we will organise our 4th annual charity run, Lëtz Go Gold, on Saturday 25 September. The event is funded entirely by sponsors, so 100% of the money raised by participants will go to research. Participants can either run or walk 1.5, 5 or 10km, on site or virtually. We are looking for individual participants but also for corporate teams, so make sure to sign up! The event includes all sorts of morning activities, from animations for kids, food stands, concert, prizes and we will mark a minute of silence for all kids who are ill or who have passed away.
V: We are also actively looking for volunteers to help with the different activities. More recently, we started pet therapy to offer an additional tool to help our patients and their siblings and parents to cope with the illness. It has been highly appreciated so far. In our mission to improve the patient’s condition, we collaborate closely with the National Cancer Plan. For example, we work on improving pediatric palliative care at home in Luxembourg, among a dozen other important measures.
Do you have a source of inspiration for your work?
A: Our patients inspire us. They are amazing. They are able to cope with the illness; it gives us energy to go on. They are truly inspirational. In 2014, we ran a big campaign where we portrayed these children as heroes, because to us, that’s what they are. We wanted to show the world that despite all the hurdles that life throws at them, they never give up and are still standing.
Through vital awareness raising activities and groundbreaking research, we can help save young lives. Click here to find out more about the Fondatioun and how you can help by making a donation, becoming a volunteer, and sponsor or simply by taking part in the annual charity run.