- Matilda Williams Obiajunwa is a beautiful lady in her early thirties who has saddled herself with the responsibility of helping children fight cancer through her foundation
- She is the founder of Daivyan Children Cancer Foundation
- The pretty lady explains what she hopes to achieve with her foundation
NAIJ.com first had contact with Obiajunwa when she launched the #SaveMutairu campaign to help a little boy battling with cancer.
The passion with which she went about it endeared us to her even more as we could not get past how a beautiful young woman like her would take on such a huge project.
During an exclusive interaction with Obiajunwa, she made some really stunning and amazing revelations about herself and the foundation.
Can you tell us more about yourself?
I am from Imo state by marriage and a graduate of the University of Lagos, where I am also currently running a Postgraduate programme. I am married with three children and I live in Lagos.
To be sincere, I never imagined towing my present path of endeavor but I guess providence had other plans. God was obviously directing me on a journey to reach out to a section of the society that rarely got attention, that needed to be supported physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, morally and financially. I say these things because I know, because I have been there, so I know.
How long have you been into humanitarian service? What motivated you to start?
In August of 2015, my youngest child who was barely two years old got diagnosed with Nephroblastoma, also known as kidney cancer or Wilms Tumour. My husband and I were devastated; moreso, the disease was already at stage four. We started running from pillar to post in search of funds to enable us take him abroad for treatment. In case you are wondering ‘why abroad?’ I'll tell you.
Do you know our child had been in hospital since early July of the same 2015? He was misdiagnosed twice, was nearly operated on and upon being discharged by the end of July, and weeks into August, his abdomen had grown so big. It was scary; that period was quite a nightmare for my family and I.
Little Daivyan was going through a rough time! He lost weight so drastically that he was just a bag of bones. He lost appetite, was very weak and was urinating blood coupled with difficulty in defecating. Meanwhile, there was no organization (with focus on our type of situation) reaching out to us for the much needed moral, psychological and financial support we craved for.
Thankfully, a handful of friends, family and churches supported our fund-drive and our child was taken to India. There, he went through preoperative chemotherapy, then the surgery to remove the affected kidney. Radiotherapy as well as postoperative chemotherapy were done. He is presently doing great.
And that experience motivated and led to establishment of Daivyan Children Cancer Foundation. I realized, upon our return, that there were children and families going through our same experience. They need to be supported in different ramifications and levels.
There’s also this issue of credibility especially in the wake of reports that some NGOs use people’s plights for personal gains. How does your organization differ from others?
Our Foundation came into being in April, 2016. Basically, we are poised to bridge the awareness gap, as it became clear to us that while other forms of cancer in adults are getting attention and support, several children (who represent our tomorrow) are daily falling victims of various forms of cancer.
If you consider this rough statistics and facts, you will begin to appreciate the torture patients and their care givers are subjected to.
About three new cases are reported every week at the Oncology Ward of LUTH, two thirds of these cases are diagnosed late, for those that manage to get admitted, chances of survival are very slim.
Funding is one major challenge for NGOs, how have you been able to manage this properly?
Our health sector is seriously constrained in providing the desired succor in response to this decease. In a country of nearly two hundred million people, there are only about nine radiotherapy machines, out of which two might just be working at any point in time. Hundreds of patients are requiring this use of the machines.
Sadly, the scourge of childhood cancer is on the increase. Indigent and low income earners, as care givers, are seriously challenged in rallying the needed resources needed to save their children. Moreover, cancer treatment is very expensive.
We are only about a year old but we are determined to make a difference. We create awareness through different forms. I have granted a number of TV, radio and Newspaper Interviews to bring the attention of members of the public to this deadly menace. We have very strong presence on the social media. We visit schools in Lagos, and we have events we host every other now and then.
The whole idea is for us to remind the public that children also fall victims of cancer, therefore early detection is key.
On children's day last year, we had our debut outing. We had the first edition of children's day march or walk to sensitize the public on the presence of childhood cancer. We had over five hundred young school children in attendance.
There were also speeches by cancer survivors and medical practitioners. In September, we had the maiden edition of our Gold Challenge event, several schools around Lagos participated in this mini sporting event, which also saw some celebrity artistes performing.
Cheques were also given to about four parents of children battling cancer to support their treatment. Last December, we had our first Merry GoldRed Christmas for the Children at the LUTH Oncology Ward. All these events were successfully executed too.
Since inception, we have mostly operated on personal funds. However, we have been able to establish relationship and rallied support from some schools in Lagos and friends who have made donations towards our events and other efforts. We have continued to get the support and encouragement of our able ambassadors in the likes of Yaw, Iyabo Ojo, Mabel Makun, Omowunmi Dada and Julius Agu.
How many successful cases have you recorded since you started?
To the glory of God, Daivyan is our number one success story. We are inspired by his survival to reach out and spread the message of hope to others in our situation at a point in our lives. In October last year, we won the DASH Challenge; a contest involving ten notable NGOs to determine the one that could attract the most votes in recognition of their humanitarian activities.
About Mutairu... his is a touching story. I met him and his mother at the LUTH Children Oncology Ward during one of my visits to the ward sometimes last year. We started to support his treatment in our own little way, in fact, they were amongst the beneficiaries of the cheques we gave out at our gold challenge event in October last year.
He was responding well to treatment and at some point was discharged, unfortunately, his parents could not continue with his treatment, mostly owing to cash constraints. When we got wind of this development, we went in search of the family at their home in Mushin. We were able to support them towards the immediate return to hospital for treatment.
Although by this time, his condition had further deteriorated. We had supported him up to the point that he was placed on a very expensive treatment that led us to embark on the campaign to raise funds for him to be able to receive treatment. His condition is Bukkit lymphoma and the doctors have assured that with aggressive and timely treatment, he has very good chances of survival.
What is the long term goal of the service you are rendering?
We continue to count on the support of well-meaning Individuals, organizations, government and international bodies to assist us in our efforts.
Mutairu is just one case, there are several children and families faced with the challenge of overcoming this deadly menace. We have plans of procuring some equipment that can aid the early detection of cancer like the Flow Cytometre Machine, which helps in the diagnosis of the exact type of cancer a child is battling. We also plan to procure the platelet making machine, which supports the separation and production of platelets from human blood.
We believe the presence of these machines will go a long way in improving the survival rates of affected children. The unfortunate reality is that health care delivery has assumed alarmingly threatening proportions.
You can as well liken the situation of patients to the IDP situation. Whilst donations and support keep pouring in for the IDPs, it will be welcome for such support to be extended to people I would refer to as Healthcare Denied Persons, HDPs.
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