By Klysha Best
Promises are actions that affirm our love and connection with others. Whether that connection is through friendships, family, or strangers, promises affirm that we want to pass on our compassion to others.
Through Promise House TT, a home away from home for paediatric cancer patients in Trinidad and Tobago, five beautiful ladies have donned their compassion on their sleeves and are passing it on in a major way to children who are suffering from this disease.
Dr Jacqueline Pereira Sabga, Cherise Stauble, Christine Nahous Sabga, Helena Sabga and Tenille Maingot are the angels on the board of Team Promise House, which is located at the corner of Saddle Road and La Pastora Road, Santa Cruz.
According to Christine, Helena and Tenille, the aim of Promise House TT is to provide a room for the patient/child and one guardian or parent to live there while treatment is taking place.
They said the idea was born out of a passion by five women to help the youth of this country who are in need, who are sick and hopefully help them on their way to getting better.
“Promise House TT caters to those families who are finding it difficult or who do not have a home near enough to the Mt Hope Medical Centre while they are taking treatment,” Christine explained “or they do not need to be actually housed at Mt Hope, but are having treatment.”
Accommodation at the House is completely free, with meals, transportation and other amenities provided through donors and in some instances, the ladies themselves.
But how did Promise House TT come into being and how did these ladies get involved?
Christine said: “The conversation about creating Promise House started with Jackie (Dr Jacqueline Sabga), who I would say is a woman before her time. A ‘do-gooder’ who is naturally driven to assist.”
“It was always a dream of hers to help not only the elderly with cancer but paediatric cancer, where the figures have doubled and tripled in recent years. She reached out to Cherise, Tenille, Helena and myself and as it all just evolved, we all got involved.”
Tenille and Helena, both former teachers, said they were easily drawn to the project as they’ve always been passionate about children and charity.
Helena said she always wanted to do something charitable involving children. “Jackie came at the right time.”
After agreeing to take on the challenge, the women said it took almost six years to make Promise House TT a reality. They said they spent a great deal of time trying to raise the money and the other portion seeking the perfect location.
Christine revealed: “Many avenues were tried, and we were promised and promised many things. We visited various sites and raised our hopes on many occasions, only to have things crash all of a sudden and then we’d find ourselves back at square one.”
According to Helena: “It was a rollercoaster for years, but we learned and cried, and it made us a stronger team.” They now have Promise House and it’s due to open its doors to its first batch of occupants.
Regarding the workings of Promise House TT, Tenille explained they are affiliated to the Just Because Foundation (JBF), a long-running non-profit Paediatric Cancer Support Organisation founded by Noel and Chevaughn Joseph.
Having worked with them personally in the past, Tenille said she always helped JBF, whether by participating in the JBF walks or their ‘Loving Lunches’ where they cooked for the patients on the ward.
She said JBF ran a home away from home and due to the cost of rental, they kept moving from one property to another. This was another catalyst for the creation of Promise House TT.
Tenille: “We realised there was a need for them to have something more permanent and much more affordable, and this way, there is no cost to them. That is how we evolved.”
The ladies said when they found the property in Santa Cruz, the aim was to renovate and have it up and running as soon as possible. However, that was not the case, as renovations turned into a rebuild.
Christine and Helena said with renovation came many “earth angels.”
“We didn’t have one shining cent,” explained Christine, “but God graced us with lots of lovely earth angels who helped us rebuild the property and offer to equip it with everything you can possibly think of. From electricity to plumbing, to septic tanks, air conditioning and landscaping.”
She continued, “We even had community help from the students of Fatima College, International School, St Joseph’s Convent, the TT Rugby team and Under-17 cricket teams, the list goes on…nearly 50 teams passed through on various weekends and assisted us bit by bit, even strangers came and built furniture.”
Helena: “What I loved more than anything else was the unity and everyone getting together, it was like a big family.”
Promise House TT will cater to six children, inclusive of one parent each.
Besides providing a home away from home, Promise House TT will also provide other types of care to cater to the well-being of the patient/child as they go through treatments.
Tenille: “In the same way that we have had volunteers in the building process, we have many professionals that have offered their services in the action phase. We have people who have offered to provide play therapy, music therapy, animal therapy and schoolwork assistance so the kids don’t fall behind.”
There’s a playroom, library, a huge living area and kitchen with an equally impressive dining area and a beautiful playground.
So, how does one with a paediatric cancer patient/child get accommodated at Promise House TT? Patients are recommended for a stay at the facility via Mt Hope’s paediatric oncologist Dr Kevon Dindial and through the JBF.
Tenille said: “The JBF has been doing this for years and they have a process, they know the requirements and prerequisites.” But, she added, it really comes down to how close or how far that particular patient/child lives from Mt Hope.
“So they come here, they’re not sick enough to be admitted to Mt Hope but they still require daily treatments or treatments multiple times per week. They stay at our home because it’s closer than where they actually live and then we provide transport from Santa Cruz to Mt Hope so they no longer have to cover that cost of being transported from their home to Mt Hope multiple times a week,” noted Tenille.
Also, through the JBF, they are also able to provide free meals to the children. JBF receives a quota of groceries a month for the patients at Mt Hope and they have agreed to provide a specific amount to the House. “Anything other than that, we will fill in,” said Christine.
Helena said it should be noted that these children are not in the category of being extremely ill, they just need assistance with a place to stay whenever they have to undergo their weekly or monthly medical treatments.
The ladies of Promise House TT said they do have a bigger plan in store for the House, but they are in the creeping stage and are still in need of financial assistance.
If you are willing to help Promise House TT, you can make a donation to:
Chequing Acct # 110 800 997 501
Republic Bank Limited
The Falls at Westmall.