Dubai students' Dh25k for cancer patients

Majorie van Leijen

Pupils at the Lycée Francais International Georges Pompidou (LFIGP) yesterday delivered a Dh25,000-plus cheque to the Friends of Cancer Patients (FOCP) after a successful donation drive.

It was a proud moment for the eight-graders at the French school in Dubai. “Many patients will benefit from this. It feels really great,” said Bijan Ghassemi (13).

The FOCP is a local charity organisation supporting cancer patients in their treatment. “We help all citizens and residents in the country regardless of age, gender, or nationality with their treatment of cancer. There are many people who need financial support in their treatment, and we are there to help these people,” explained Sawsan Abdul Salam AlMadhi, Secretary General of the organisation who was at the school to receive the cheque.

Last year, the class at LFIGP started the initiative, which has two purposes, explained teacher of the class Abraham Ryan. “We want to support this organisation, but at the same time we want to make our pupils and others aware of existence of cancer in Dubai.”

Apart from collecting as many donations as possible, the class was tasked with some research first. “There are about 27 organisations we could pick from. We had to research them and select one. We chose the FOCP because we found out that cancer is a very big problem in the UAE,” explained Grace Stech (13).

A survey was then carried out among other schools in order to find out how much people know about cancer. There were many misconceptions about cancer. For example, many people tend to think that cancer is contagious, cannot be cured or does not exist among men, explained Abraham.

“We learnt a lot from doing this project. We found out how many people in this country suffer from cancer, and we learnt much more about the disease. For example, we learnt that cancer is not contagious,” admits Joseph Jarrouche (13).

On November 21, a big donation drive was organized on the school’s premises, where participants were wearing the colours pink, blue and white, the colours respectively most associated with women's cancers, men's cancers and children's cancers.

“Pupils and parents were queued to donate money. Although the minimum donation amount was Dh10, many wanted to give more. We did not expect such a turnout,” says Bijan.

Furthermore, a giant picture of more than 1,000 children was taken and the students participated in the National Parade with FOPC, asking attention to the case of cancer.

The exact amount of Dh25,736.75 was finally collected, a higher amount than last year. “We had the support of the Sharjah School this year, which helped us a lot,” says Abraham. “It is a great amount, exceeding all our expectations.”

“One of the great things is that we are helping patients inside the UAE. It is a great feeling to know that we are helping patients here to survive, and to increase awareness about the problem at the same time,” said Jad Al Hass (13).

Abraham added: When people look at Dubai they might think of a holiday place, but we want to say that cancer is here as well. This should not be neglected.”

However, much could be done if all schools would participate in similar initiatives, points out Sami Amar (14). “Imagine how much money could be collected if all schools participate. We could cure many cancer patients, and make a big chance.”

“We are hoping to make this a more pan-emirate initiative with many more school participating next year,” revealed Abraham, a plan greatly appreciated by Sawsan.

“I am incredibly proud of this school and of this class,” she said. “They have carried out this project from a to z, and they should be a role model for other children and schools.

Asked what the amount means to the organization, she said: “This has been given with love, with genuine love. It is the best Valentine’s gift one could get.”

The FOCP has been active in the UAE for 13 years and has supported the treatment of 950 cancer patients. On a monthly basis, we nowadays help the treatment of 50 patients per month. That is what we can handle. But we see new patients every month,” added Sawsan.

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