Happy Feet Home – India’s first hospice care center for children with terminal illness

In a country like India, with a population of over 1 billion, it is estimated that millions of people are diagnosed with terminal illnesses, every year. A significant proportion of this is children. Where its always hard for a patient to mentally cope up with such news, for parents to find out that their child has a terminal illness is even more shocking. Particularly if they have to to deal with it alone.

This is where something called a Hospice care center come into action. These end-of-life palliative care centers are designed for patients who are in the final stages of a terminal illness to become physically, emotionally comfortable and as free from pain as possible.

Happy Feet Home is one such initiative taken by two Mumbaikars Abhishek Tatiya and Mansi Shah. It is India’s first ever Hospice for children suffering from terminal illnesses to provide physical, emotional and social care.

“I come from a social sector and have worked for such organisation for almost nine years. While working I realised that there are organisations working on all causes but there is nothing for people, especially children who are in the suffering from terminal diseases. They have no place to stay. Moreover, their parents are are racked by the pain of their child dying before their eyes. These parents and children must be eased into the final days with understanding and more importantly, with joy.” said Mansi shah. The team decided to do work on this in February this year.

Driven with little else but passion – they had no money or a physical space to run the proposed centre. The duo met with several doctors across the city explaining their idea.

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Their first help was from Dr Mamta Manglani who is the Head of Paediatrics at Sion Hospital who offered the duo with a chance to partner with the hospital on the project. Their partnership provided Mansi and Abhishek with a physical space and the medical staff.

A further boost to their efforts came from their meeting with Unltd India, which is providing incubation support to the team.

Other than that, the team had to raise about USD 160k on their own to support operations, to facilitate which they are running a crowdsourced campaign on Indiegogo.

The team adds that the hospice will begin with a day-care centre and will also look to provide respite to the families of the patient other than running various recovery therapy sessions for patients.Envisioned to provide to enhance the quality of their last weeks and months, the child center offers a number of services to the children. This include several recreational and engaging activities; therapies based on art, music, play and dance; one-on-one group/family counseling; and the toughest of all – bereavement support to parents and families, to help them cope up once they lose their loved ones.

“Our aim is not money making but to make each day a memorable one and to create a safe space for children suffering terminal diseases,” says Abhishek.

However to have a continuous flow of money to keep supporting the operations, Happy Feet Home will work on a donation model, where it will accept donations at individual, corporate and government levels.

The author can be reached at devesh@wirefootindia.com