Thousands of children with cancer and their families are receiving practical and spiritual help through a project run by the Bible Society of Nicaragua.
“I don’t like being in the hospital because it hurts so much when I have my chemotherapy treatment,” says Francella, 13. “I feel desperate and afraid. It’s hard to breathe. I can’t even describe how bad I feel.
“But when I get like this my mother reads the Bible to me and it calms me. It somehow makes me feel less uncomfortable and more peaceful. I can feel God’s love for me.”
Francella’s mother, Maria, says that when her daughter was diagnosed with stomach cancer six years ago she felt absolutely devastated.
The world went dark
“The world went dark for us and our hopes and dreams were wiped out,” she says. “I spent weeks and weeks crying and I blamed God for Francella’s cancer. But now I understand that God loves us and has a plan for each one of us.”
Francella is one of thousands of seriously ill children who are being helped by the Bible Society of Nicaragua and its partners through a project called Hope and Smiles for Children with Cancer. The project is based at Nicaragua’s only paediatric oncology facility, the Manuel de Jesus Rivera Children’s Hospital in Managua.
6,000 children treated
The hospital currently treats 6,000 children each month. The children and their families have to travel to the hospital regularly for this treatment. Some live far away and have to stay overnight, so, in 2005, a shelter was built for them. It has 20 beds but there are often more than 70 people staying there.
The project trains and equips pastors and volunteers to work at the hospital three days a week, offering the young patients and their families emotional and spiritual support. They pray with them, talk to them and give out illustrated Bibles to the children and Bibles and other biblical literature to the families and medical staff. Copies of the Heroes of the Faith DVD are also given to the children.
The project offers practical assistance, too, paying the transport costs of poorer families who cannot afford to bring their children to the hospital and providing extra food to help the children build their strength during treatment.
To help publicise the project, a relaunch event was held last month. Three hundred children receiving treatment for cancer enjoyed a week of special activities. They went to parties, watched clowns and puppet shows, played games, and received gifts, food and Bibles.
At the end of the week a parade was held to celebrate the project. The children rode on trucks, performing skits about their illness, while their parents gave out free Scripture Portions to onlookers. More than 50,000 copies were distributed.
Balloons of four colours were held by the parade participants: yellow balloons by the parents of children who had died of cancer; red balloons by children receiving treatment for cancer; white balloons by children who had recovered from cancer and green balloons by Bible Society staff members and volunteers to represent the project.