The Puttinu Cares Cancer Support Group was set up in 2002 and began from an idea and a desire to offer a holistic approach of care for families with children suffering from cancer. Dr. Victor Calvagna and Mr. Rennie Zerafa were the founders of this group.
Puttinu is a character created by Mr. Philip Farrugia Randon. He is an angel sent from heaven to take care of Toninu, a Maltese boy.
The first project of the charity was to bring to life the dull children’s ward in St. Luke’s Hospital (the former general hospital in Malta until 2007). With the help of passionate volunteers and generous sponsors the ward was soon brightened up with vivacious colours and fun pictures that created an environment more attractive for children, and thus more conducive to children’s medical care.
An annual Summer BBQ is organized for the children and their families as well as a Christmas Party where presents are handed out to all participating children. These activities have become a yearly event in Puttinu Cares’ Calendar. Several other smaller activities are held throughout the year. Some of these activities are organized by third-parties with proceeds going to support the charity.
Puttinu Cares employs the principle of solidarity. The charity relies and are grateful on sponsors and generous donations from the public, who also participate regularly in fund raising activities. Today the biggest annual fundraising event of Puttinu Cares, is the Football Marathon, which is usually held in spring. Nonetheless any help immaterial of it size is much appreciated on behalf of the Charity’s benefices.
Thanks to the continuous extensive coverage and support offered especially by the local media, Puttinu Cares has throughout the years created a respectable image among its ever increasing supporters and donors.
Today the children’s oncology ward is housed in the Rainbow ward at the Mater Dei Hospital, being the new General Hospital in Malta since 2007. The professional staff of the ward work tirelessly and hand in hand with the dedicated team members and volunteers of Puttinu Cares who are always willing to provide whatever is needed to the cancer sick children and their respective families going through this very difficult period in their lives.
The support group offers guidance for parents in order to help them deal with this ordeal ahead and given them hope for a better future. The team gets to know the familes – their likes and dislikes, weaknesses and strengths, and aims to treat each family as an individual team with customized needs.
Since Malta is a small island state, with limited resources, it is next to impossible to cater for all the required medical care taking into account the complexities and variants that such illnesses may involve. To this end, it a general rule that some of these young patients have to travel overseas accompanied by their families to specialized hospital to receive specific treatment that is not available in Malta.
Due to the historical, cultural and language tries, it has been the tradition that the Maltese seek care, whenever it is not present in Malta, in the United Kingdom. Although the National Health Service (NHS) in Malta provide support to the young patents and their families the overall costs involved to attend such treatments abroad, where at times it may also involve lengthy stays, may be for some families surmountably very high. It is for this reason that Puttinu Cares intervenes appropriately so that the financial burden involved on the unfortunate affected families is cushioned and eased. Such illness effect all the strata of the society and naturally not all the families are in a sound position to face such unexpected family ordeal.
On an average, 30 Maltese young patents have to travel to the UK for diagnoses or treatment each month, which sums up to a figure of an annual figure of 360 people. Puttinu Cares currently spends around € 500,000 to help such families in travelling and subsistence costs. Due to continuous rising travel costs, we would like to be in better position to offer subsidized deals on flights.
Initially accommodation for the families was being rented in the UK, in close proximity of the hospitals. With this motive, and seeing the pressing need for accommodation, Puttinu Cares acquired its own house in Sutton UK, in the vicinity of the Royal Marsden Hospital where most of the Maltese young patients travel for treatment. Initially three flats that could house six families were purchased, and made available.
The success of this project, encouraged the Charity onto another bigger and ambitious project, in order to expand the accommodation from three to twelve apartments, so that more families can benefit from such help. The cost of this project amounted to € 3.4million and represented a huge financial headache which was financed through a loan with a local Bank, with an annual interest rate of 3.1%. This sum is being repaid through regular generous donations, sponsors and charities, for which we are humble and extremely grateful. Currently we still have 1.4 million euros to repay back.