When it comes to wishes, we all have our bucket list and we spend our entire lives trying to fulfil them. But for a person diagnosed with cancer, life suddenly gets caught in the rigmaroles of diagnosis and treatment, and the entire focus shifts only to dealing with challenges and life’s little wishes take a backseat. But for the children at the cancer ward of the Royal Hospital, life is all about hope and finding joy while battling the disease.
“I Wish” is one such unique charitable initiative in Oman that helps these little children and their families find hope and happiness by fulfilling their small wishes. Make a wish, big or small and “I Wish” makes sure that the wishes get fulfilled.
Started in 2013 by Karen van de Ruit and Puja Khimji, this charitable set up has come a long way in a few years. Talking about their journey so far, Karen said having lived in Oman for 20 years, she has been part of several events and shows that were held to fundraise for registerd charitable organisations in town. But when she met Puja, they decided to branch out on their own and do something good in a small way. “Doing something big needs sponsors and other procedures. We decided to do something on a smaller scale and wanted to offer help to people directly,” said Karen.
“We wanted to make it very personal and we wanted to see their emotion. We wanted to make sure the donor goes directly and gives the gift,” added Puja.
While dealing with the children’s cancer ward of the Royal Hospital, where some children were terminally ill, the duo realised that these children could never be taken to public places owing to health issues.
“We initially thought why not give them an iPad; that’s when we realised that most of the children wanted tabs or iPads to remain connected to the outside world. They get bored sitting in the hospital. With an iPad they get to play games, watch movies and so they started asking for iPads. Our main aim was to make the children happy and if iPads were making them happy, then why not we thought,” said Puja while explaining why tabs and iPads are the main item on the children’s wish list.
Talking about the procedures, Karen said that since they are not a registered organisation, they do not take any cash from anyone or raise funds. “Our system is very child specific. Earlier, we used to go to the hospital and ask for their wishes. Now we have built such a good relation with the hospital staff that they just text us and we arrange for the donors. We work by approaching either through our friends, who are waiting to donate something or put it up on Facebook and Instagram as a wish asking people to come forward and donate,” said Karen.
Highlighting the donor-patient experience, Puja said they wanted to make the donors personally come and give the gifts and let them experience the joy. “Since our set up is very small, this is something that is possible for all. So even with OMR35, anybody can lend help and fulfil a wish,” she added.
Talking about their future plans, Karen and Puja said they both feel that while it is ideal to expand and branch out their volunteerism to other sectors, they do not want to try doing something which they might find difficult to pursue in the long run.
“The reason we have remained attached to the Royal Hospital Cancer Ward is because we built very good relations. We have been given the passes and most of the people know us. So it is easy for us to bring in the donors. We maintain a WhatsApp group, with the head nurses there and we operate through that. So if there is a wish they update in the group,” said Puja.
Reminiscing about one particular incident when a mother had made a wish for a stroller, Puja said it had made her realise how much small things matter.
“There was a mum, who needed a stroller. It was just OMR30. It was a great realisation that small things make so much of a difference. Anyone can donate OMR10,000, but maybe that wouldn’t always be able to fulfil someone’s immediate need. For us, when we go back and see the children’s smiles, we think all the effort was worth it,” Puja stated.
Talking about the problems they face, Karen said language is a barrier and so they are not always able to communicate with the kids and their parents.
“Some of them know us as the iPad ladies now and their happiness is what matters the most to us.”
Contact I Wish at + 968 9777 0004