Sidney Chahonyo, executive director of Hope for Cancer Kids – Kenya, stepped to the podium with the red tassel of his graduation cap swinging as he spoke to fellow participants of the ALSAC Global Scholars program.
“Hope for Cancer Kids probably has the least resources and the most constrained budget of all the organizations here, but I was still chosen to give this speech,” he said. “And being chosen speaks to the fact that it doesn’t matter how small you think you are, as long as your dream is big enough, then nothing can stop you from breaking those boundaries and achieving it.”
The graduation ceremony, held on the campus of ALSAC and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, was the culmination of the 10-month ALSAC Global Scholars program managed by ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude. The program includes online courses and subject matter experts who coach partners of the St. Jude Global Alliance to raise sustainable revenue for their respective foundations in their own countries to fight childhood cancer globally.
The Alliance is a global network that brings together institutions and foundations dedicated to the shared vision of increasing access to quality care and improving survival rates for children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases, with a specific focus on low- and middle-income countries.
The program’s goal is for these foundation partners to better understand fundraising best practices and how to apply that expertise in their countries and cultures where the fight against childhood cancer can be far more daunting than in the U.S.
Each year, an estimated 400,000 children worldwide develop cancer. Globally, approximately 90% of children with cancer live in low- and middle-income countries, and far too many of these children lack access to adequate diagnosis and treatment. Compounding the problem is limited public funding for pediatric research and care, and imbalances in the technology available to raise needed funds. Many of these children will unnecessarily die from their diseases.
ALSAC hosted 23 scholars from foundations in 13 countries on the St. Jude campus for Global Scholars Immersion Week prior to the graduation ceremony. Participants traveled from Chile, Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, Kenya, India, Mexico, South Africa, Uruguay, Zimbabwe, Mongolia, Tanzania and Uganda.
During Immersion Week, scholars presented their capstone projects, which are fundraising plans they will implement in their home countries in the next fiscal year.
Chahonyo, a cancer survivor himself, said the program helped participants define and refine their fundraising plans and further develop the capacity to reach their goals. He is humbled, he said, by the great work that is being done across the continents to ensure that every child has someone fighting for them in their corner.
“As Danny Thomas said: ‘No child should die in the dawn of life,’” Chahonyo said. “I want to couple that statement with one that brings his sentiments into the modern era: Where huge inequities exist in the area of cancer care, where you live should not determine if you live.”
To close, Chahonyo appealed to those working toward this mission.
“As we like to say at Hope for Cancer Kids, ‘Together, let’s save their lives.’”