The kids of 35 Ofelia Street in Project 8, Quezon City, are nothing short of a miracle.
They are not child prodigies, not dancing, singing, piano-playing Internet sensations. They are warriors who, every day, are battling the Big C. All are age 12 and below; some are barely a year old.
The kids are residents of Child Haus, a temporary shelter established by celebrity hairdresser and businessman Ricky Reyes for children undergoing chemotherapy. All are out-patients from the provinces who undergo treatment for three or six months, or even a whole year.
Instead of leaving them to sleep in hospital corridors or, worse, on the streets, Reyes decided to provide the kids and their families a decent home.
Child Haus has been around for eight years, and Reyes attributes its survival to “kind-hearted Filipinos who continue to support” the halfway home.
“The money we spend every year all come from donations,” says Reyes (“Mother” to Child Haus residents and staff). “Sometimes, someone adopts a child, then pays for his or her treatment.”
Volunteer teachers also drop by to conduct informal classes; nuns and priests provide catechetical guidance. There are also Reyes’ friends in media who help spread the word about Child Haus and their plight.
“I am able to use my ‘status’ as ‘celebrity’ to contaminate people into helping others,” he says.
The shelter was originally located in a revamped warehouse inside the old Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office compound. Then PCSO chair Honey Girl Singson de Leon was the one who came up with the name “Child,” Center for Health Improvement and Life Development, and Reyes affixed the word “Haus.”
After PCSO vacated the compound, Reyes had to look for another location. It was a difficult six-month process, he recalls, because once people found out that cancer patients would be living in the house they would refuse to rent it out. “They don’t realize that cancer is not contagious,” says Reyes. “If a kid’s condition starts to worsen, we immediately take him or her to the hospital.”
Their address now—still temporary, as Reyes eventually wants to buy a permanent home—is a three-floor, white-walled house which can accommodate up to 100 people. A large, colorful Child Haus banner welcomes one at the gate; inside, the spacious garage has a playground, small grotto, and an activity area with toys and books.
One is instantly met with warm smiles and courteous “good mornings” by the children, parents and staff. The bright, festive posters, artwork, and décor—plus the kids playfully running around—are more suggestive of a daycare center rather than a house of cancer patients.
“It’s really a home for them,” says Reyes. “They help each other out; mothers group themselves when doing the cooking, washing, cleaning. They have proper rooms, they live comfortably.”
Each child is accompanied by one parent, usually the mother; if the patient is an infant, then both parents are required to stay. There are around 50 double-deck beds; parents sleep on top while the kids stay in the lower bunk. A small space near the receiving area serves as chapel.
“In eight years, we’ve benefited more than 8,000 children with cancer,” says Reyes. “Out of that, not 50 have passed away, because they have time to go to the hospital. They get the needed treatment, which gives them hope.”
The shelter has 16 partner hospitals and institutions which are responsible for referring patients to them. Dr. Rachael Rosario, a cancer survivor herself, is head of staff and oversees operations as well as medical care of the children. Reyes drops in from time to time, and is there whenever there is a special occasion.
“People have asked me, why children? These kids don’t fully understand the illness that has struck them,” Reyes says. “Nasa dulo na siya ng pisi ng buhay niya—hindi mo pa ba idudugtong ang kamay mo? (They are already hanging on for dear life—wouldn’t you reach out your hand to help them?)
Call 02-4548064 or 4562306. Visit www.childhaus.org.