Kinginicheppu, a fund financed by voluntary contributions, helps to provide free food and treatment to children from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are undergoing treatment at the Department of Paediatric Oncology at the Regional Cancer Centre in Thiruvananthapuram

‘Kinginicheppu' is a lifesaver for Selvi, a casual labourer from Kalladakkuruchi in Tamil Nadu. Her son, three-year-old son, Muthushelvam, has been under treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia at the Department of Paediatric Oncology at the Regional Cancer Centre (RCC) in Thirvananthapuram for the past two-and-a-half years. Thanks to the Kinginicheppu fund instituted by the department for its patients from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, Selvi hasn't had to spend a paisa for her son's treatment, medicine or food during his long stay at the hospital.

Heavy toll

Selvi's story echoes those of other economically backward parents from Kerala and neighbouring States whose children are under treatment at RCC. Cancer takes a heavy toll on the families too and often they have to bear physical, emotional, and financial burdens. Many such parents would have to forgo employment during the course of the treatment/hospitalisation of their children. Apart from treatment costs, they would have to face ancillary expenditure such as transportation costs, blood transfusion costs, paying for care for their other children, cost of food for both the family and patient, to name a few.

Disturbed by the plight of many such cases, the Department of Paediatric Oncology started Kinginicheppu in 1996. This fund, however, remained mostly dormant and was activated only in 2008.

Kinginicheppu has been recently renamed as ‘Kids Welfare Fund,' to help patients between the ages of zero and 14.

“Already there is the Kerala Government Cancer Suraksha Scheme to meet the hospital expenditure of economically backward individuals. Under this scheme, the government helps out with the investigation and treatment of patients from Kerala. However, this particular scheme doesn't cover patients from neighbouring states or the daily food requirements of the patients. And that's where Kinginicheppu steps in with much-needed help. For instance, an amount of Rs.80 per day per patient adds up to around Rs. 60,000 per month from the total expenditure. Furthermore it provides funding for patients from southern parts of Tamil Nadu (comprising 10 to 15 per cent of patients) and a few from the Andamans and Nicobar Islands, categorised based on set parameters such as income of parents,” explains Kusuma Kumary, Head of the Department of Paediatric Oncology, RCC.

“This is to reduce the financial burden on RCC and to fill the lacunae in providing free services to those in dire straits,” adds Dr. Kusuma. This financial promise by India's first paediatric oncology department (that was established in 1984) is only in the form of meeting hospital expenses and monetary payments are not made directly to patients.

Says Selvi: “Thanks to this benevolent initiative, my son is on the road to recovery. He was also happy to receive a new set of clothes for Onam.”

A glimpse into the paediatric ward reveals a child-friendly atmosphere with colourful paintings on the wall. In 2009, to mark its 100th episode, Asianet's Idea Star Singer Season 4 had given Kinginicheppu further impetus by bringing to light the stories of some of those children distressed by the disease and financial predicaments associated with the same.

Home away from home

Now the department is thinking of fostering the fund into a greater dream of rehabilitation – the establishment of a ‘home away from home,' a shelter for cancer-afflicted patients and their families. According to Dr. Kusuma the fund can help provide accommodation for around 150 people at any given point of time. She articulates the need to provide a clean and hygienic environment, nutritious food, and so on for the patients. “Owing to the long duration of most treatments, we plan to offer informal education and recreational facilities for children, vocational training for mothers, and also act as a contact point for a source of livelihood for fathers. This would reduce the psycho-social burden of the families,” she adds.

Surendran Chunnakkara, public relations officer, RCC, states: “Funding is primarily by voluntary contributions from the public as charitable endowments. To improve the credibility of this initiative, it is routed through the accounts of RCC, thereby allaying fears of misappropriation or misuse, if any. Therefore, to a large extent, the success of Kinginicheppu is determined by the awareness of such a fund and its commitment to its philanthropic idiom.”

For more information on Kinginicheppu, contact: Surendran Chunnakkara (9447797869) or Dr. Kusuma Kumary (9961277957).