Coffee morning with Ms. Shyama Kaviratne Founder of St. Jude Childcare centers

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

By Swara Chandran

We welcomed Ms. Shyama Kaviratne, the founder of St. Jude Child Care center in India to share her story of St. Jude’s birth and evolution. St. Jude provides a home away from home for young cancer patients and their families. St. Jude was established 14 years ago in the heart of India, Mumbai city. It started with just eight children. Now, they are in six cities that include Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Jaipur, Hyderabad and Vellore. These centers together consist of 33 centers with 410 units in total.

The inspiration and dedication of Shyama Kaviratne and her husband, Nihal Kaviratne came about when they saw families stranded on railroad stations and pavements near Tata Memorial hospital in Mumbai, India, with their children ranging from 5 – 13 years old with no place to stay during their chemotherapy treatment.

These families sometimes travel miles from small villages in India into the city to find a cure for their cancer-affected children. They would sell everything they had to make provision for their child’s cancer treatment. St Jude provides a clean environment for these children during and after treatment as their immunity is weak and sensitive to infections. 

St. Jude is unique because not only do they provide a healthy, safe accommodation they also provide so many additional support like nutrition, transportation to and from the hospital, counseling for family and new skills for income generation, educational and recreational activities and art-based therapy such as music therapy and yoga for the children and family at free cost. They also provide awareness around gender equality at all of their centers. St. Jude has increased the survival rate for several children affected by cancer from many villages all over India.

How you can help?

Monetary donations, of course. You could celebrate a festival, sponsor a birthday, organize an outing for the children and parents or spend a few weeks in any of the St. Jude centers in India. The volunteering opportunities are very flexible and include reading books and playing with the children, helping out in the kitchen, teaching a subject to the children, supporting with computer skills and/or any other personal skills that would help. St. Jude welcomes your love and support in any ways possible.

A young volunteer who was a student of SAS Singapore, shares her experience at St. Jude.

“I volunteered at St Jude over the summer of 2014, I was 13 at the time. I spent three weeks volunteering daily at the Mumbai center. My time in St Jude is what truly motivated me to pursue medicine in the future, I learnt more from my experience there than I did in any other of the internships I did. Coming from Singapore where things are generally comfortable, it’s quite easy to take things for granted and though it might seem cliché, it was eye-opening seeing how adaptable and brave these young kids were in the face of such pain and adversities and how grateful they were for every moment they had. I felt I gained more from my experience than I could possibly give, I’m grateful to the children of St Jude for giving me so much love and teaching me to treasure the moments I have and all that is given to me.”

- Tarini Chaudhuri Iyer 

Interested in St. Jude’s well-developed volunteer program? Please contact: contact@stjudechild.org.