Through her organisation, Kerrin Black shows cancer sufferers that all is not lost. By Buhle Mweli
‘A friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer in 2008 and couldn’t get his medical aid to assist him with payments for the care he needed. So I organised a golf day to raise funds to get him the money,’ Kerrin Black says. Later on, she began getting calls from families telling her of several people with similar stories. And that is how the Faces of Hope Foundation came about. Although there are many organisations that raise money for cancer research, few raise funds for medication costs. So, for Kerrin, starting the foundation was a no-brainer.
In a nutshell
The organisation also serves to raise awareness of lymphoma, or blood-cell cancer. As a businesswoman – Kerrin is owner of a talent-finding company and does PR work – it’s difficult to make time for everything, but she takes it in her stride. The biggest challenge for her is fund-raising. Faces of Hope raises funds through aligning itself with small and medium-sized businesses. For instance, it might collaborate with an enterprise that makes pendants and receive a percentage of the proceeds from sales. Among the Faces of Hope board members are three doctors – one of whom is an oncologist (cancer specialist) – and they do their part in assisting with medical research within the organisation.
Should someone need to apply for financial assistance, they can visit the website facesofhope.co.za to get more information. Once the application has been submitted, the board members then sit down to assess whether they can take on the case. ‘Many things will come into play,’ explains Kerrin. ‘If the disease is at its terminal stage, we must separate emotions from our reasoning and make a sad decision not to assist.’
The organisation helps where it can, financially. In some cases, it can only contribute a portion of the funds needed – the drugs don’t come cheap. ‘We once had a 19-year-old girl who needed drugs that cost almost R600 000. We tried tirelessly to raise funds and by the time we had a small percentage to give, the price had gone up to R2 million. We just couldn’t raise the funds. In situations like those, my heart sinks.’
Knowledge is power
‘Fund-raising is not the only thing we can do to make a difference; that’s why we make sure we raise awareness of lesser-known cancers,’ Kerrin says. For many cancer sufferers, knowledge is power. Kerrin also tries to squash the misconception that the disease means you will die immediately. ‘Yes, there are many fatalities and we deal with that in the most sensitive way, but we also want to empower people to survive, remain hopeful and stay positive.’
She says that patients’ attitudes determine how they will live with the disease. Patients are encouraged to read up on their particular disease, so they know what they are facing, instead of just giving up on life. Social media campaigns, radio interviews and cancer days are some of the ways they reach out to people. Cancer SA also lends a hand – both with financial assistance and advice.
Where there’s a will…
Anyone wishing to assist can visit the website for information but, practically, Kerrin says: ‘Initiate your own project; create your own fund-raiser, no matter how small, and donate the funds. We’ve reached many people so far, but there are so many who still need our help. I had never run an organisation before this; I had no experience, but it was my willingness that allowed us to grow.’