We love Christmas, and in this country, we especially love how the Yuletide season starts almost three months before the day itself.
The season of giving reminds us of how blessed we are to be surrounded by good friends and family, and we always find ourselves a bit nostalgic for Christmases past, and hopeful for what’s yet to come.
It’s been tradition for hotels and malls to mark the start of the holidays with a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, but SM Cebu is different. It has the Christmas Village of Hope, launched at the start of the season. It makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Maybe it’s the familiar scenes of families coming together, frozen in time in a 70-sq m (not so) miniature display of over 600 snow-capped houses, churches, bakeries, a brewery, an ice skating rink, and even a dog obedience training school. The whole village has train tracks running through it.
And each house and structure in the miniature village bears the name of the donor.
The Christmas Village of Hope, now on its sixth year at SM City Cebu, is an annual fundraiser for the benefit of the Kythe Foundation. A donor can sponsor one structure in the village, and the proceeds go to helping children with cancer.
Marissa Fernan, vice president of SM Prime Holdings Inc., explained the reason for the partnership with the Kythe Foundation:
“SM City Cebu supports the Christmas Village of Hope because it allows SM, with the thousands of people who visit the mall daily, to be active partners and participants in bringing hope and the promise of a brighter future to the children of Kythe.
“At the same time, SM and its partners are able to share with its customers of all ages the joy and wonder of the season through an amazing Christmas display.”
More than the grand display, though, it was the sight of 15 kids from the Kythe Foundation, cancer survivors playing without a care in the world, that moved and prompted us to do an impromptu interview with Kythe Foundation president Arnel Jose Bañas, who flew in from Manila for the launch, and find out more about what they do.
Tell us more about Kythe Foundation and its operations in Cebu.
Girlie Garcia Lorenzo and Icar Castro founded Kythe Foundation in 1992. Back then, they were two graduate students finishing coursework in psychology. They met pediatric cancer patients, engaged them in play therapy and discovered the beginnings of a whole new community in the hospital ward.
“Kythe” is a Scottish word which means to manifest oneself. We manifest our love for the children quite simply, through sharing and togetherness.
Kythe’s flagship program is the Child Life Program, which provides the following services with the acronym Petals: Play, Education, and Preparation about the illness; Tend to emotional needs of patients and family; Assist during medical procedures; Lend medical assistance; and Support parental involvement.
The Kythe Child Life Program at the Cebu Cancer Institute (CCI) started on May 6, 2008.
Sr. Lucilla Perpiñan, then CCI head, believed in providing not only medical, but also psychosocial, support to pediatric cancer patients. She understood the program’s value to the pediatric cancer patients and their families.
CCI is led by Sr. Jocelyn Wong with Dr. Lynda Mae Lepatan, Dr. Wilma Lucero, Dr. Ma. Suga Dioko, Dr. Desiree Holayson, Dr. Jose Antonio Quitevis and Dr. Cynthia Melicor as pediatric oncologist consultants. The Kythe Child Life Program is implemented by Shalom Bernales and James Mabuyo.
In 2015 alone, the Kythe Child Life Program in CCI served 601 pediatric cancer patients and children with chronic illnesses like hemophilia. The patients come from low-income to lower-middle class families from Cebu and nearby provinces.
Kythe Cebu now has 31 children on off-treatment phase. One of the most memorable moments for us in Kythe is when our patients “graduate” from chemotherapy treatments.
How did the partnership with SM’s Christmas Village start?
Clayton and Joji Tugonon, owners of the Christmas Village, are the prime movers of the Christmas Village of Hope. They approached SM City Cebu six years ago to ask if they were willing to provide the space for the grand display, and thankfully, Hans Sy and Marissa Fernan willingly supported the advocacy. Kythe is blessed to be chosen as the sole beneficiary of the annual Christmas Village of Hope.
How do you choose your beneficiaries?
All pediatric cancer patients who seek treatment at CCI are Kythe beneficiaries. While it is true that CCI is a private hospital, the hospital is run by sisters of St. Paul de Chartres and they serve indigent patients. The St. Paul Sisters believe that even the less fortunate have the right to quality service.
What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?
It’s knowing I was able to give children with cancer the opportunity to hope. Every child has the right to grow up and chase his or her dreams. Our survivors can be the future presidents of Kythe and even our country. I am happy we were able to give the children another chance in life.
The Christmas Village of Hope will be on display at The Northwing of SM City Cebu until Jan. 8, 2017. Call Kythe Foundation at 376345 or 0918-9072094; e-mail [email protected].