When it comes to volunteering a few hours every month, especially in your first few visits, you may commonly encounter an overwhelming sense of pity mixed with helplessness, particularly when dealing with children who suffer from cancer.
For some people, this feeling may quickly dissipate, but others may need more time to grow emotionally stronger under such circumstances. Ultimately, the lesson most of us learn from volunteering is that we cannot exclusively attach ourselves to feelings of pity, as your pity is not what these children and their families need. What they do need is someone to spend time with them, interact with them and support them.
Yeni Mulyaningsih Dewi, 36, or commonly known as Yanie, is an excellent example of the spirit of volunteering. After losing her 7-year-old son Taufan to leukemia in April 2013, she has found the strength to use her experience to give moral support to others who are in the same situation she had been through. After volunteering at the Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital, she founded Komunitas Taufan (Taufan’s Community).
“It’s all due to the support of Count Me In (a CSR initiative of the Jakarta Globe). Before Komunitas Taufan came into existence, I started to volunteer in mid 2013 at Cipto Hospital, to give moral support to families of children with cancer,” said Yanie, whose son passed away in the same hospital in which she is now actively involved as a volunteer.
“When it comes to dealing with people with cancer, what’s first taken in consideration is the financial aspect of medical treatment. For example, lower income families at the Cipto Hospital get government subsidies. But there’s much more than this to take in consideration.”
Yanie adds that the help those people need is not purely monetary, which is where she steps in. She is there to help out families with a variety of tasks, from filling in paperwork for registration, to asking for financial assistance with local foundations working in the hospital and understanding the hospital’s inner workings.
In fact Yanie’s main aim is to educate families on how to deal with procedures and to give them more strength in knowing she is always ready to meet them face to face whenever they have the necessity to personally talk with her.
Word of mouth has spread about Yanie’s great commitment. With the support of people around her, she started Komunitas Taufan at the end of 2013.
“Through Komunitas Taufan the aim is to carry on the cause and expand on it,” Yanie said.
“Beside personally approaching families for moral support, Komunitas Taufan will also focus more on helping families to cover the numerous hidden expenses of having a child in the hospital, such as travel costs, milk, diapers, toiletries and other necessities. Those are costs that are not covered by subsidies, but I know from my personal experience, those kinds of needs are strictly necessary. There are small things often not taken into consideration which sometimes are the most needed.”
So far, Yanie and additional volunteers have been distributing stuffed animals and toys to the kids, which were previously donated by generous individuals and collected by Count Me In.
“I’ll keep distributing the dolls and toys at Cipto and in other locations too” Yanie said.
“If interested in volunteering, people can contact us through Twitter. Usually people come on Sundays and they can also entertain children with story telling or magic tricks.”
Meanwhile, donations of milk, diapers and toiletries can be personally given to Yanie. For those who are willing to contribute to the families’ transport expenses, contributions can be sent to the Komunitas Taufan account.
Andriana, 32, a committed, long-term volunteer decided to team up with Yani after hearing about Komunitas Taufan.
“I saw in Yanie my same passion in helping children,” said Andriana, founder of Rumah Main Fun House in her own residence, to give informal education to underprivileged elementary school children in the area of Condet.
“Through Rumah Main Fun House, I volunteer in giving lessons like English, cooking classes and geography. My hope in joining Komunitas Taufan is to help kids in other ways, as well as involving volunteers from Rumah Main Fun House to interact with children in hospitals.”
Thirteen-year-old Rudi, originally from Banten, has undergone surgery for a tumor in his face. He is one of the children at Cipto Hospital who has been receiving support from Komunitas Taufan.
“I have received a Transformers robot, milk and stationery,” Rudi said. “[The gifts] make me remember the days when I used to play with Taufan; I knew him, we were often at the hospital together, we were friends.”
Meanwhile, 8-year-old Elma Tiana, originally from Lampung, has been under treatment at Cipto Hospital since January 2013 for cardiac abnormalities and bone tuberculosis. Her mother Suhenah, along with her husband, have been in Jakarta for a year without income and are living at the Dompet Dhuafa Shelter, near the hospital.
“My husband was a farmer in Lampung,” Suhenah said.
“Here in Jakarta we have nothing. I’m so thankful to Komunitas Taufan who has provided toys and milk to my daughter. Also, the moral support Yanie is giving me is priceless. I feel thankful and proud to know her.”